Home Rule Backers Probably Have the 25k Sigs They Need, So What Happens Next?

The real question: Will the DISD board make the Home Rule movement moot?

Last week, people who know people were telling me that Support Our Public Schools, the group trying to gather 25,000 signatures so it can put a home rule measure on the November ballot, has met that goal. Now I’m hearing the number of signatures gathered is closer to 30k (which makes sense — always build in a buffer) and that the group could present them at any time. Officially, the group’s PR firm, Allyn Media, says it won’t confirm or deny signature numbers.

So why hasn’t SOPS presented these signatures and started the home rule-on-the-ballot process? Will they present them soon? And what happens then? All those questions have different answers, but they are linked to another question that is much harder to answer: Will the DISD board go ahead and implement home rule-style changes and make this entire movement moot?

Answers: They haven’t presented yet because either a) they have fewer signatures than I’ve been told by multiple people (chance: 20 percent); or b) there is back room negotiating going on for some sort of compromise between the interested parties here, like the teachers union, various board members, SOPS, local education interest groups, etc. (chance: 94.2 percent). I’m hopeful these ALLEGED negotiations can bear fruit, but I’m very doubtful. In particular, I can’t see the powerful teachers union AFT signing off on any proposed DISD charter changes that involve longer hours or more school days without promises they won’t lose money in the deal, and I don’t see how that could be promised. That said, remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and so on.

My guess is then if  the ALLEGED attempts at reconciliation fail, the signatures will be produced in short order. What happens then? Everyone digs in. Battle lines are drawn. Those who believe home rule is the best chance we have for accelerating substantive change in the district — I’m a fan of the process, for what it’s worth, if only because it’s forcing these discussions — will move to sell it to voters, first by putting together a commission of folks with street cred on this issue (I’m thinking of involved, passionate DISD parents, not just education activists and politicos). Those who believe this is a takeover by rich corporate suits — an argument that makes absolutely zero sense, but whatever — will begin setting up their straw men. Like all campaigns, it will get ugly real fast.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, even if the ALLEGED compromise attempts fail. Because as trustee Mike Morath pointed out in Jim Schutze’s column last week, the board members against this have been saying to everyone, hey, we don’t need this home rule thing, because we can enact these reforms ourselves. (Specifically, things to make the board more accountable and implement longer school days and/or school years.) And yet … they aren’t doing it.

Why can’t the board just go ahead now and decide to implement these reforms. Have some public debate, discuss it amongst yourselves, but go ahead and get it done. Do the reform-y things you say the board says it has the power to do. If these signatures are presented, that would be the best outcome for everyone. I know you’d like me to estimate the chances of that happening, but Vegas just took them off the board.


  • Michael C

    Will you clarify what you mean by, “the powerful teachers union AFT”? What kind of power are you referring?

  • Amy Cowan

    Here are some very plausible scenarios I see happening:

    1- the commission flat out ignores the November election cycle and takes advantage of the amount of time that they are allotted.

    2- Conveniently enough, this would potentially put it on the same ballot as the mayor’s 2015 race…. could be good, could be bad. I’d think Rawlings has a lot to lose if his South Dallas relations stay this intense and it ends up on his ballot. Sadly, 25% of registered voters probably won’t turn out for that election, which is a qualifier for home rule.

    3- the commission is called, majority of it says they’re happy with the current operating procedures and bylaws, and nothing is changed at all- SOPS loses a chance to make an impact altogether

    4- the citizens realize there is basically zero community input time with a 9 week turn around time and raise holy hell. I think the experience at the Preston Forest library was just a tiny taste of what would happen.

    5- the 5% petition signers get pissed because SOPS sold them out in a deal

    A 6th less plausible, but still possible, scenario is the appointee from Blackburn, Ranger, and Nutall join with the 4 appointees from the District Advisory Committee. They only need to sway 1 vote, and they could essentially undo all of reform movement efforts.

  • Bill Betzen

    One thing SOPS cannot continue to do is ignore the data. DISD was improving graduation rates and the numbers of students with high scores on tests at the fastest rate in DISD history before July of 2012. Granted SAT/ACT scores indicating college readiness were still too low, but they were slowly going up as the percentages of students graduating were going up faster than any major urban district with 85%+ poverty rates in the nation! Look at the data: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2014/05/dallas-isd-home-rule-effort-ignores-data.html

    Then the corporate education blessed superintendent Miles showed up after leaving behind a district where he decimated the high school enrollment by 25% and the 12th grade enrollment by 32%! He came to DISD and started doing the same thing. Now we have the lowest high school enrollment in 5 years and a senior class enrollment that just dropped 6% in just one year!

    The SOPS slide show complains about a rate of DISD 8th graders who graduate that was only 67% over the past decade. That real number is 63.2%, but at the beginning of the decade the number was 60% and by the end of the decade it was 76%. Doesn’t that tell a different story? Progress! If you look at the 8th grade Promotion Rate, that percentage who make it to enroll in the 12th grade, you can look at this years number since graduation numbers for the Class of 2014 are not available. That number went from 59% to 83% last year, then suddenly it dropped 7 percentage points to only 76% this year, the lowest percentage in 4 years! Miles is repeating what he did in Colorado!

    Sometimes I wonder if “home rule” is all a diversion to help keep our attention off the damage that is being done right now in DISD. Can we ignore these numbers. If anyone wants an Excel copy of this spreadsheet just email me as it says at the above link. I welcome and value critical feedback on my interpretations of this data.

    Dallas must return to the constant progress of 2007-2012! SOPS likes to focus on snapshot in time statistics but apparently is uncomfortable looking at changes over time. Yes, DISD must improve, and they are. Let’s focus on ways to accelerate that improvement: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2013/01/saving-public-schools-3-steps.html

  • vseslav botkin

    Because that’s what you say when you write these stories. Workers who band together to negotiate are “powerful.” They call the shots. The school boards and administrators and astroturf groups they take on are just regular folks.

  • Kathy S

    Thanks so much for starting my day with a giggle. “the powerful teachers union AFT”. I certainly hope that was intended as sarcasm.