Sooner Than Later, DISD Trustees Will Run Out of Legal Excuses They Can Hide Behind

I spoke this morning with Ben Barlow, the Fort Worth attorney for the Dallas Independent School District system who had informed me yesterday that no waivers were available under existing law for Dallas's magnet schools facing severe budget cuts under federal Title I funding rules.

The thing was, an hour after Barlow had given me a lecture on this theme, the Texas Education Agency called DISD and granted waivers to seven magnet schools.

The TEA said the waivers, exempting the schools from so-called comparability requirements, had been agreed to by the U.S. Department of Education.

So, uh ...?

I called back Barlow to sort of go back over things. He was very nice. But, first, let me recap exactly what he told me yesterday.

Barlow told me yesterday we had been way wrong in reporting on Unfair Park last Friday that waivers might be available.

"Congress has passed a law prohibiting waivers," he said. "Now, Congress can change that law . I don't know that the Department of Education secretary can change that law. That's a law passed by Congress that probably has to be changed by them if you want to change that requirement. I think in your blog you're a little inaccurate saying that there is a waiver for comparability..."

When I reached him today at about 9:30 a.m., Barlow had not yet heard the big news about TEA and the Department of Education granting waivers at the end of the day yesterday.

"Oh, well, that's good news," he said. "I don't know how they can do it, but ... I know they had done it for a year. They got a call this morning or yesterday? Well, I haven't talked to them."

He then proceeded to give me a very interesting and learned dissertation on how and why you can get waivers.

This is why we have to judge the school board on the basis of what they themselves do when they vote and not on the basis of the legal opinions behind which they hide.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze