Last week, I introduced you to Dallas Kids First, one of the newest PACs in Dallas. The group has announced whom it’s endorsing for the DISD board of trustees race. They’ve also released the most information I’ve seen on the candidates for the race. Their endorsements are: District 1, no one; District 3, Dan Micchice; District 9, Bernadette Nutall. So as you see, in District 1, they haven’t named one candidate to back. I’ll explain that in a minute.
But what you’re probably wanting to know–and the first thing the other PACs/Unions have disclosed when announcing whom they’re backing–is how much money they’ve giving. James Ray, one of the founders of Dallas Kids First, says giving money isn’t what they’re about. They’re not just cutting a check. I’ll explain that in a minute.
First, let me give you a quick background on Dallas Kids First and how they came to their decisions. The organization is a little more than 6 months old. The members wanted to be a grass-roots organization that got people out to vote for the DISD board races. At first, they wanted to be a nonprofit, but then the members realized they could make more of an impact if they became a PAC. So they officially filed.
In order to give backing to candidates, DKF asked them to fill out a questionnaire and come in for interviews. They have released the very intense questionnaires on their website. But if you don’t have time to read through the pages of surveys (because, say, you’re shipping the May issue of the magazine you work for), then they have also created scorecards that summarize the surveys/interviews. The group then took the information and gave it to their advisory board, which is made up of about 23 people from various districts and demographics. (If a person has given more than $200, he/she cannot be on the advisory board.) The board makes up half the vote of whom to back. The other half was made up from comments from the 400 members involved with DKF. This led to a lot of heated discussions and many, many hours of research.
The biggest debate came in District 1. Ray told me that the group believes three of the candidates would make really great trustees and the other one would make a good trustee. Because the mission of DKF is to put kids first and get people to vote, they felt that any of the trustees would meet these elements. So they’re not backing just one candidate. Instead, they’re going to put their resources into getting people to vote in District 1. One aspect of this will be a video they’ll create showcasing each of the candidates. They’ll give the candidates a few takes, and let them choose the one they like best. They’ll then put this video up on their site. Because, as Ray sees it, some people just don’t have time to get in their cars after work and go to a forum. But watching a video at home will take less time and still get the same information.
The other districts were a little easier to decide. All the members really enjoyed meeting Dan Micciche. They were impressed with his volunteer experience and skill-set. They also enjoyed meeting with incumbent Bruce Parrott. But when they asked their two key questions–what policies have you instituted and what policies do you want to institute–Parrott faltered. He didn’t have any policies to point to.
On the flip side, the group was very impressed with incumbent Bernadette Nutall’s answers to their key questions. “If we wouldn’t have stopped her, she would’ve kept going,” Ray says about Nutall explaining her policies. He says that after the interview, they looked her up, and found she even undersold herself. Though all the members were impressed with Nutall, they were looking forward to meeting with 20-year-old Damarcus Offord. Unfortunately, he didn’t show nor did he turn in his survey. Ray says he wanted to have time to talk to Offord because of some of the bad press he’s received over his comments during a DISD board meeting a few weeks ago. Though Ray doesn’t think Offord threatened the trustees, he does feel he was volatile, which could be a bad trait in a trustee. DKF had questions for Offord, and they’re disappointed they weren’t able to ask them.
I asked Ray about the $40,000 DKF has raised and where that’s going if they’re not cutting checks for the candidates. He said it’ll go toward getting out the vote, forums, videos for all the candidates, and simple things like flyers. He says he’s more than willing to show me where the money goes as they spend it.
Last year, Dallas had one education-focused PAC (two if you count the teacher’s union). Now it has three. And instead of having no one run in the race, we now have eight candidates. It’s exciting. But if you’re not sure whom to vote for, take a look at the information on DKF’s site. Even if you don’t agree with whom they’ve decided to endorse, that’s fine, they just want you to vote. (Cue plug to the education forum we’re hosting with TEDxSMU on April 10 at the Kessler Theater. Register here.)