Wednesday, September 27, 2023 Sep 27, 2023
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DISD Saga: Clarifying Some Points

By Eric Celeste |

In fairness, I should say exactly why I think this was such a debacle for the district, and spread some blame around, because it needs to be spread.

First of all, I think Hinojosa handled this poorly, but he was dealt some crappy cards. He is told back in February that these learning centers and magnets are over-funded and need to scale back to continue receiving Title 1 funding. DISD asks TEA, and TEA says, yeah, that’s right. So then DISD tells the board about this problem, because, hey, if they don’t, they’re SCALLYWAGS WHO HAVE SECRET AGENDAS! At that point, the board members do what they do: break off the part of this problem that they can best use to promote their own agenda/gripe/complaint/whatever. That is what I mean by lack of leadership on the board’s part.

Then, two months later, the TEA says, oh, wait, you mean THAT Title 1 funding? Oh, you mean THOSE magnet schools? No. Sorry, guess what, you don’t have to cut everyone’s budget after all. Sorry. Hey, have fun with that mess you’re in. Now, why has no one asked the TEA commissioner to stand up and take accountability for that? Because that’s no fun. The TEA is in Austin. We wanna complain about the folks here.

MEANWHILE, parents like me (my daughter goes to a magnet school) get all worked up about teachers being cut. I don’t want to hear about fairness. I want my daughter’s kick-ass school to stay kick-ass. They need a big piano, then they need a big piano. MEANWHILE, the schools get worked up, too. At least publicly. Behind the scenes, though, some of those same schools are telling the district, hey, guess what, we can handle these cuts. They’re bad, but we can make it work. Just DO NOT say we said that. We’ll be in big trouble. Thanks for taking the heat, DISD.

That’s just part of the reason DISD is in a no-win situation here. It’s also because, the fact is that some of these school budgets are way out of line, and that’s a hard thing to say politically. H. S. Thompson Learning Center spends almost $11,000 per student. Adelle Turner Elementary, which is 100 percent African-American, spends less than $5000 per student. You’re telling me it’s racist to reduce the H.S.T budget to bring it more in line with Turner? Maybe $5k is too little, but does that mean it’s okay to spend twice that at another school? It’s a valid debate.

My criticism then, is not that some of these budget cuts don’t make sense. They do. It’s that they allowed this to become a referendum on several political/personal topics that, while somewhat important, aren’t part of a discussion about equitable funding and class size. And that everyone should realize how protective people are over their schools, and think about how that debate is going to play out before it is discussed. I do think Hinojosa should take some blame for that. I also believe the board has taken hits it deserves on this. But the TEA gets off with no criticism for this mess, and that’s just flat wrong.