Two Quick Notes About the Efforts To Make DISD a Home-Rule District

How the folks trying to get petitions signed can convince voters to do so in 10 seconds or less.

DISD board in January.
DISD board in January.

If you read the story in the Sunday paper, you know that there will be people at polling locations tomorrow asking you to sign a petition to explore remaking DISD. It’s a great idea, one that could lead to meaningful change. Two things that struck me:

One, as noted in today’s follow-up blog post by Matty “Ice” Haag, one of the outcomes of a reconfigured DISD charter could be that “[t]he school year could start earlier and be extended.” This is huge. A commission to rework the DISD charter couldn’t change any of the district’s accountability requirements to the state, but it could get rid of laws that allow little to no wiggle room in how long the school year is scheduled. As more research shows the value of extended school days and years, this is a problematic restriction.

Two, Timmy noted to me in an email today that it seems impossible to convince voters that they should sign such a petition, given that the volunteers hawking it will have maybe 10 seconds to make their case. If they’re smart and stay on message, that won’t be a problem, I don’t think. For free, here’s a script:

“Hello, sexy Dallas voter. We’re here because 93 out of 100 DISD graduates are not college ready after their senior year. Will you sign a petition asking for an independent commission to review the district’s charter and make reform recommendations?”

There are many, many interesting considerations such a review could recommend. (I’m partial to making the board accountable for student achievement scores/data, just as the superintendent is, by triggering new elections when goals aren’t met.) But that muddies the waters. For now, just stick to something simple, like the script above. I would sign that. Wouldn’t you?


  • Alexander

    I wouldn’t sign it. Are the recommendations binding? Who chooses the study provider? What is the ultimate goal of the petition? It is certainly not to just gather recommendation.

    I’m not against change here, there’s a ton I’d like to change. But are these guys ideas the same as mine?

  • Alexander

    I wouldn’t sign it. Are the recommendations binding? Who chooses the study provider? What is the ultimate goal of the petition? It is certainly not to just gather recommendations.

    I’m not against change here, there’s a ton I’d like to change. But are these guys ideas the same as mine?

  • Anonymous

    So don’t pitch the petition like a wonk. Get down to the core. “Will you sign this petition to let the citizens of Dallas run our own schools instead of having Austin dictate everything?

    — Phelps

  • Ralph Malph

    Convince me that this isn’t a play for DISD’s piggybank. THEN, I will sign the petition.

  • Eric Celeste

    All this is covered in those links. Recommendations not binding; they go to voters. (Unlike Dallas city charter review, btw, they don’t have to be approved by the current governing body before going to voters.) Goal is covered in those same stories, which is to get out from under one-size-fits-all laws that govern every school district, no matter size and challenges, and have an independent review of the current DISD structure to see what is and what is not working. The city does this every 10 years, minimum. DISD, far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong), has never on its own undergone such charter review.

  • Dubious Brother

    Too bad they weren’t at the early voting locations, at least not the one I went to.

  • gimmethewooby

    But if this is about wanting to review and reform the current structure, why not just do it under the current setup? Or is that something not allowed the way things currently work.
    Like others, I think change is needed. Just not sure if this much of a change is the right move. Getting local taxpayers and parents more involved and concerned about the district as a whole vs. their neighborhood or magnet school seems like a better starting point.

  • Alliance-AFT

    Alliance-AFT’s take on why this is a bad idea.

  • Joe

    For good for for bad, this was dead before it even got started. Teachers won’t get behind anything that eliminates state mandated minimum pay or teacher contracts or that creates the possibility of extending the school year. They already are calling it a “power grab” and suggesting that this would eliminate parents rights even though there really isn’t a specific proposal on the table. Hell, they are demonizing a man who personally funded head start programs put at risk by the government shutdown. People might be for or against reform efforts supported by Arnold, but anyone that doubts his good faith interest in improving education has an agenda that doesn’t include helping students. This drivel shows me that the Alliance-AFT isn’t interested any any dialogue about improving the DISD and might as well be ignored entirely on issues related to education.

  • Alexander

    I’m not seeing answers to my concerns in the links. I’m seeing “its not clear”; “it could include”; and “Rawlings said he’s not in favor of any specific changes”.

    These guys have a plan. They would’t put money behind it if they didn’t. And I might like the plan! I don’t know though, because there are no ‘specifics’. It could also be a way to make my neighborhood school pay their teachers $25K a year, work 6 days a week and teach creationism.

    Last time I voted for something vague like this we got the Trinity Tollroad and Obama (Hiyo!)

  • East dallasgirl

    I wouldn’t sign it. Who is behind it? Why has it been in the works for months and yet shrouded in secrecy? What rules could be done away with/ How could it affect teacher-student ratios? teacher pay?

  • Rob D’Amico

    Joe, how can you have a dialogue when the backers (Support Our Public Schools) haven’t engaged the community for any discussion? Launching a petition drive with hired workers and then refusing to answer any questions to reporters or the school board doesn’t seem like they are interested in dialogue. The only thing hinted at by backers are reduced teacher pay and larger class sizes. That doesn’t seem like a recipe for success in DISD.

  • Joe

    Which of the backers suggested reducing teacher pay? Which of the backers suggested increased class sizes? Which of the backers refused to sit down with anyone to discuss this? I’ve seen news stories suggesting that these things might be possible, but I’ve seen nothing from backers suggesting that any of these things are desired, let alone part of a plan.

    It seems like the opponents in the teachers unions like you have their talking points lined up without any examination of what has been proposed. I don’t think the “plan,” if there is any, has been explained at all. That isn’t a point in its favor, but it also seems like we are in the first week of what could be a very long process and the teachers unions are already out in droves scarring parents away from the boogie man.

  • Rob D’Amico

    News reports actually have Miles mentioning lower teacher pay. The SOP letter to the board notes a goal of “More flexibility in classroom staffing.” And DMN reports “But the group mentioned some possibilities, such as lengthening the school day and school year and increasing elementary school-class sizes beyond state requirements.”

  • Mike

    The study is not binding. The results and “suggestions” would have to be voted on to go into affect. I attended a Catholic grade school in the 60′ and we had 40 to 50 students in each class in the lower grades and 40+ in middle school grades thru 8th grade. We were prepared for high school. If 90% of students are NOT prepared for high school in the current process what will this research hurt……except the bureaucrats that have a lot invested in the current system.