I don’t agree with Jim Schutze’s conclusion in his latest column for the Dallas Observer: "DISD Doesn’t Deserve to Win Its Bond Election Because of Its Fiscal Incompetence." Based on that headline, I don’t need to tell you which side of the bond issue (Saturday’s voting day) Jim comes out on. His comments, though, represent the crux of the argument against the $1.3 billion bond proposal, which is being touted by DISD as a way to help continue modernizing the district’s schools and ensuring that student achievement continues to improve.

Jim’s conclusion, if I may be so brave as to try and synthesize Obi-Wan in a few words, is that DISD has been so screwed up for so long that it’s time to teach those clowns a lesson by standing up to them and voting the bond issue down. Or something like that. Jim seems to believe that stiffing DISD on the bond issue by voting it down is somehow going to send a message to the adminstrators and school board members that it’s time to quit screwing around and start making the district run like a business. After all, how long can a school district promise financial and management improvements and then appear not to deliver on them?

I’ve got news for you, Jim: Pretty much every reasonable person in charge of anything at DISD already knows it’s screwed up. They just can’t figure out a way to turn things around as quickly as you and I and they would like.

The real problem is that relatively new DISD Supt. Michael Hinojosa is doing just what Jim and the other bond naysayers are demanding: He’s going through the district in a fairly laborious fashion and trying to turn the place into something that functions more like a business than a financial suck-hole. But it’s unrealistic to expect Hinojosa, or anyone else for that matter, to turn around something so obviously messed up in just a couple of years. The oft-delayed audit of the district’s finances contributes to the feeling that DISD isn’t getting better, but the opposite seems true: Hinojosa is making progress, but now he’s being victimized by our expectation that every two or three years, DISD is going to implode yet again — because for as long as I’ve been in Dallas, that’s exactly what has happened.

Defeating the bond issue is something voters clearly can do, but a "no" vote isn’t going to speed up the DISD cleanup, it’s not going to bring angels down from on high to start zapping recalcitrant administrators, and it’s not going to cause some of the "only-out-for-number-one" employees still working in the bowels of DISD to confess the errors of their ways. All of that is only going to happen if Hinojosa hangs around long enough (like another 5-10 years) so that the culture of the place can be turned around, at least as much as a place with 160,000 students and employees can actually be turned around — which is to say, the next time a DISD bond issue is put before voters, we’ll probably still be talking about this same stuff … because that’s the inevitable nature of a bureacracy that’s just too large to effectively manage. So what we need to do is carve DISD up into smaller districts that are more manageable and more effective for the students in our neighborhoods … but that’s a column for another day.


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