Asking voters to provide additional tax revenue is not an easy ask. If Dallas ISD had requested this of me five years ago, I would have said, “No.” Back then, DISD was near the bottom of rankings of public school districts in Texas with 43 improvement required (IR) schools and little hope in sight. Positive DISD-related news stories were far and few between.
But here we are, five years on, and today, it’s a much different story.
If you live within the Dallas ISD attendance boundary zone, you will find four DISD-related propositions on your November ballot. I urge every resident to support our public schools and vote FOR all four of these propositions — A, B, C and D.
Today, Dallas ISD is the fastest improving school district in Texas with only three schools on the IR list. And our district is regularly featured in local and national news outlets for its turnaround, innovative programming and ongoing successes.
Dallas ISD’s novel programs are used as models across the United States, including its Accelerated Campus Excellence initiative (ACE) and early colleges and P-Tech programs. Add to the list an emphasis on early childhood education, social-emotional learning, increased student participation in extracurricular activities, choice and transformation schools, expansion of magnet schools and (finally) a focus on racial equity, what we have today is one of the fastest improving urban school districts in the country.
These programs are working, but they are not easy, and they are not cheap. Educating poor kids never is. Ninety percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, yet somehow, the state legislature doesn’t give much weight to that stat when it comes to funding our schools.
Next year Dallas ISD will be considered “property wealthy” and will be in recapture (aka “Robin Hooding”), a mechanism whereby the state takes a portion of our property tax revenue to dole out to property poor districts. This will leave the district with $27 million less than what we have this school year. While we can argue the merits of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, I’m certain almost all would agree that stealing from the poor to give to the poor is not a worthy cause.
The hard work of the district is ongoing, but we arguably are on a positive path forward, and DISD has shown it can be entrusted to be good stewards of our money.
Since the state continues to fail our students by not passing school finance reform to address this inequity, we have no choice but to support our schools locally. And that is why we’ll see these measures on our ballots.
Proposition language is often convoluted and difficult to understand. Translated into normal-people English, here is what each of the ballot measures mean. Voting FOR:
- Proposition A will ensure that students’ transportation needs are met over the next 10 years.
- Proposition B will free up $75 million in the operating budget so that the money can be used for campus needs.
- Proposition C (the only ballot measure that will financially impact residents) is requesting voters to approve a property tax increase of $0.13 per $100 of home valuation, which then will be used to fund programs and teacher salary increases. Those who are 65 or older qualify for a senior homestead exception, which freezes the property tax rate from any increase.
- Proposition D allows the district the most flexibility in terms of how the recapture payment is made.
All four Dallas ISD propositions must pass for the district to have the best opportunity for financial strength. Should we voters choose not to pass all four ballot propositions, the district will make difficult choices as they make cuts in our schools — to staff and programs — in order to balance the budget.
I am loath to give voice to the naysayers. But I hear the conspiratorial claims of some who call themselves public education advocates, that these ballot props are a ploy to fund more charter schools or a secret plot to privatize public education. Their words are misleading at best and, in truth, completely false. An interesting note is that many of these same folks voiced public opposition to the interim bridge plan and the 2015 DISD bond, which adds new permanent space for overcrowded schools and upgrades to campus facilities across the district. They also oppose ACE, early colleges, early childhood education and choice schools — programs that have not only improved student outcomes, but have helped stabilize enrollment numbers.
Providing our students with a quality public education only serves to better our city. A local educated workforce, safer neighborhoods and helping our families break the cycle of poverty are good for all of us. We must fund our schools, support our teachers and care for our students.
When I consider where our district was, where we are today and where we’re heading, I am choosing to vote for our kids, and I ask that you join me in voting FOR all four of the Dallas ISD propositions on your November ballot.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.