“DISD’s Unacceptable Shortfall”

The News ran a very strong and very good editorial on Friday that deserves a few observations. First, I agree with it about 95 percent. Three months ago I told Michael Hinojosa to his face that he needs to hire the very best corporate CFO in Dallas, and pay him or her whatever it takes, $300,000, $400,000, it doesn’t matter. Education people are good at education; Hinojosa has shown that. Let financial people do the finance.

As far as I’m concerned, the News is right to hammer the superintendent for not seeing this one coming. Until the last sentence, which reads:

Another scandal like this, and the DISD board of trustees should consider changes at the top.

There are two things wrong with that sentence. The first is the use of the word “scandal.” The shortfall of $65 million amounts to 5 percent of DISD’s budget. Hinojosa has hired 750 new teachers, reduced class sizes to 20-23 students, and pulled over 100 schools into the exemplary and recognized categories. Nobody likes the fact that he and his staff lost track of the dollars being spent, but is it truly a scandal? While this was happening, the News itself was experiencing a financial shortfall of about 14 percent. Is that a scandal?

The second thing wrong is the suggestion that if there’s a new eruption of some sort, Hinojosa needs to go. That would give us 9 superintendents in 13 years. A new hire would mean 10 in 13 years. Is that how you clean up an organization? Just when you’re getting the best results in 40 years?

And if we’re calling a financial shortfall a “scandal,” what about the News’ own top leadership? If they report another shortfall in the third quarter, should the Belo board “consider changes at the top”? Their overall performance is nowhere close to as impressive as Hinojosa’s over the last three years. With a moment’s reflection and a little dose of humility, maybe the News editorialists will stop calling kettles black and start supporting those who are trying to scrub them clean.

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