Now that the air has been cleared regarding Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's poorly spelled add-on agenda item to "undo" the $28,000 raise set aside for Chief Academic Officer Robin Ryan, we can move on to what happened at today's Dallas Regional Chamber meeting: "A Look Back and A Look Forward: Dallas ISD Past, Present & Future."
Hinojosa sat on a stage between former superintendents Linus Wright and Mike Moses, along with moderator Frank Roby, chairman and founder of Concero Global, LLC, to discuss how public education contributes to the economy. Wright made the opening comments, agreeing with two of President Obama's proposals: a nationwide early childhood education program and a longer school day and school year. "When you think about economic development, you need to think about public education," he said.
Moses painted education as bearing the burden of an unjust tax system in Texas, noting that Dallas and Houston are the largest public school districts in the state. Because they also happen to include areas of rising property values, the districts could soon become designated as Chapter 41 districts. This means that instead of getting funding from the state, money instead would be sent back, leaving Dallas and Houston increasingly on their own financially to address education.
"Can you imagine a school district that has students [where] 80 percent of them are economically disadvantaged, which is the case in Dallas and Houston, having to send money back to Austin?" Moses said. "That is I think a very dangerous position to take ... Fortunately, I think this chamber is watching very, very closely."
The state's growth is another challenge to education on the state level, with 80,000 students added each year, according to Moses. Additionally, the fastest growing parts of the population are the over-55 crowd and under-18 group. And while folks over 55 have most of the discretionary wealth, those under 18 are trending minority and poor.
"Will an older aging population pay to educate the younger population that does not necessarily look like them?" Moses rhetorically asked the audience.
The change in the demographics of DISD seems to give weight to the question asked by Moses. Twenty years ago, according to Wright, the DISD was 42 percent Anglo, 42 percent African American and 16 percent Hispanic with a 60 percent poverty rate. Today, the DISD is 68 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Anglo and 28 percent African American with 86 percent at the poverty level.
"The greatest challenge we've every had in public education is learning to educate children of poverty," Wright said.
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But don't let all this talk about poverty keep you from putting your kid into public school. The moderator was sure to ask Hinojosa about parents interested in saving money in these hard economic times.
"We have some strategic initiatives," Hinojosa said. "We have 22 campuses where we have two-way dual language -- where a parent can put their kid in at kindergarten and they can learn two languages in the primary grades.
"We have multiple ideas and strategies and we want people to give us a chance," Hinojosa added. "We think that with the urbanization a lot of people got tired of going way out to the ex-burbs. A lot of people are moving back to the inner-city, and hopefully they'll bring their kids with them and they'll grow up in our system."
After all, Hinojosa's son -- a Hillcrest High School grad -- is now at Harvard.DISD - Building Blocks for Transformation