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So Flunked: All the DISD Has Accomplished Is Turning School Against School

Tonight's meeting of the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees will tell the tale -- several, in fact. First, of course, we have the underlying question: Should the district gut the budgets of its enhanced schools -- magnets and learning centers -- in the name of equity for other schools?

Then, there is the second storyline: Aside from the merits of the budget cuts, why did the district tell the public it was being forced to cut these budgets by state and federal regulations? More to the point, why is Superintendent Michael Hinojosa on the op-ed page of the daily paper this morning continuing to tell that tale?

By now it's clear that state and federal regs do not require the cuts. Alarmed parents and a minority of the school board have been scrubbing the regs for weeks now. The jury is in. That dog won't hunt. Why did the district lie?

And, then, there is this third tale left to be told: What kind of public leadership leads by deliberately pitting communities against each other? That one came home to me big-time two days ago, when I was walking into Frank Crowley Courts Building for my day of jury duty.

I fell in line on the sidewalk with a Woodrow mom I know. She's actualy much more than a Woodrow mom: She and her husband are deeply involved in school issues and the community.

We're standing at the light waiting to cross. She tells me she has been reading my stuff on the magnets and that I almost had her going. But then she saw a reference to the number of performing arts teachers on the faculty of a magnet middle school. To which she responded: "I thought, 'Hey, give us a couple of those at Woodrow.'"

I fully understood, because I know that Woodrow struggles along and maintains a wonderful tradition of performance with two teachers, one for music and one for theater. How is that fair?

Then I'm sitting in the big central jury room drinking coffee from my Thermos and thinking about it. See. That's what they've done.

The school board and the superintendent are trying to get this deal done by sowing seeds of envy. If they strip all of those magnet teachers out of the magnet schools, Woodrow isn't going to see a single new teacher. Neither is anybody else. All you're doing is allowing the district to relieve itself of the pressure of maintaining the few programs that have high standards.

All you'll get is more mediocrity.

What kind of people deliberately mislead about their motives and then try to build support by whispering envy into the ears of the community?

I was talking about this last night on the phone with a colleague. We laughed at the absurdity at the center of it. What? The Dallas school system has got these secret laps of luxury tucked away somewhere? Idle rich people sitting around in their fancy blue blazers and yachting caps, sipping champagne and laughing at the wretched rest of us? I don't think so.

We're all in the same very leaky boat together, and we all need to grab a can and bail.

The real bottom line on DISD is Houston v. Dallas. Go to the Texas Education Agency Web site and check it out. Dallas consistently spends more money per student for lower test scores than Houston. Allowing Dallas to relax its standards is not going to fix that problem.

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