How did East Dallas voters help bring millions of potential funding to Dallas ISD?

Photo courtesy of Justin Henry

East Dallas precincts gave Justin Henry some of his largest margins of victory in June, propelling him to his seat on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. He promised to vote opposite of his predecessor, Bernadette Nutall, on controversial issues, and he made good on that promise with his recent vote to put a measure on the November ballot to increase Dallas ISD funding.

Last year, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees failed to put a Tax Ratification Election (TRE) measure on the ballot, meaning the district lost the chance to let voters decide whether property taxpayers would give DISD an additional $55 million in funding.

The pro-TRE faction needed one more vote to get the measure on the ballot, but with Lew Blackburn, Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall voting against the tax hike (Audrey Pinkerton was notably absent), the six-vote supermajority needed for tax measures was out of reach. It was the second failed attempt; two years in a row.

These failed efforts were part of what prompted Hollywood-Santa Monica resident Justin Henry to run for the Board of Trustees in District 9 — the seat of his former mentor Bernadette Nutall. Henry won the first election, but not by enough to avoid a runoff against Nutall in June.

District 9 is an oddly shaped district that includes bits of East Dallas near Hollywood Heights and near Baylor Hospital, as well as parts of Downtown and neighborhoods south of I-30.

Henry won handily in June, earning 63 percent of the 2,392 voters that weighed in. Precincts where he saw some his largest margins of victory were his home neighborhood of East Dallas. In precinct 1075, which straddles Garland Road south of White Rock Lake, Henry scored 123 votes to Nutall’s 14. In Precinct 1076, which includes Hollywood Heights, Henry tallied 187 votes and Nutall only 10. Henry’s largest victory was in precinct 3009 between Baylor Hospital and Central Expressway, where he pulled in 136 votes when Nuttall had 22.

Earlier this month, the Dallas Morning News reported that Dallas ISD trustees voted 7-1 (Foreman the lone vote against) in favor of putting a 13-cent tax hike on the November ballot for Dallas voters. If passed, it would raise the property tax rate from $1.04 to $1.17 per $100 of value, similar to other area districts. The measure could rake in $126 million more in funding for Dallas ISD, or around $668 per student. The money would be used to fund the district’s pay-for-performance structure, early childhood learning, specialty campuses and more.

Many school districts and public education advocates believe local tax measures such as this have become necessary because the state has reduced its education funding over the years. Though almost 90 percent of Dallas ISD’s students live below federal poverty standards, the State of Texas considers DISD a property-rich district, and is expected to force it to pay $65 million to poorer districts in the state, according to the Dallas Morning News.


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