The Arguments Against Dallas ISD's Home-Rule Charter Push Are All Pretty Terrible

The folks behind Support Our Schools, the group pushing to free Dallas ISD from many state regulations by turning it into a home-rule district, have finally gotten around to explaining themselves.

Their stated goals: to combat voter apathy, extend the school year and school day, woo back the middle class, make it easier to fire bad teachers and provide more local control over funding and curriculum.

In response, trustee Carla Ranger took to her blog -- again -- to decry the effort as a cynical power grab by the city's business elite:

This is all about politics, power and money -- not education.

\With Mayor Mike Rawlings' constant unethical meddling into Dallas ISD affairs and Superintendent Mike Miles doing more harm than good, the result is a Dallas ISD teaching staff that appears to be more broken in spirit than I have seen in the 8 years I have served as a Trustee.

Authoritarians always want all power.

They never want to share it.

See also: Dallas ISD Trustees Are Skeptical of Shadowy Home-Rule District Push

That echoes what's been said by Alliance AFT's Rena Honea, who, with Ranger, has been SOPS' most vocal opponent.

The proponents of this horrible idea are trying to say it will provide flexibility, which in reality means that corporate interests will seek to turn our neighborhood schools into privately operated charter schools with no accountability to the public ...

This is a power grab, pure and simple,The home-rule charter is part of a plan to underfund our schools, declare them a failure, and contract out to private operators the control of our neighborhood schools, disenfranchising parents and community stakeholders and deprofessionalizing teaching. This initiative ultimately is for profit, not for kids.

The problem with these arguments is that they're terrible. These are straw men that Ranger and Honea are so enthusiastically knocking down.

Look at the process for turning DISD into a home-rule district. Supporters are already busy trying to persuade some 25,000 registered voters to sign a petition. After that, the matter is completely out of SOPS' hands. It's the trustees, not shadowy "corporate interests," who choose the 15-member charter commission. And it's voters, not Mayor Mike Rawlings or Superintendent Mike Miles, who will decide whether the charter they come up with is any good. In fact, the process is arguably more democratic than the current system, since it gives voters -- at least 25 percent of them have to show up -- a direct say in the district's operations.

Then go watch Rawlings' speech to The Dallas Morning News' editorial board and try to dispute any of his points:

- "The problem is that everybody's moving out of town. We had 25,000 of the 'haves' leave this school district in the last 10 years." (True. Ask any young parents why they moved to the burbs.)

- "Economically this is a train wreck. ... Over the last decade 139,000 young men and women started DISD, 4,000 students were college ready .... This is a disaster." (Also true. A 3 percent college-readiness rate is pathetic.)

- "It takes drastic measures to change the trajectory. It's a basic law of physics: Objects in motion stay in motion." (True. See: Newton's first law.)

If sweeping positive change in DISD were possible under an elected school board, with all its petty political squabbles and micromanagement and racial divisions, it would have happened by now. It hasn't, and it won't.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson