Education

Why DISD Probably Won’t Offer the Line Item TRE Vote We Thought It Would

Turns out offering voters the chance to vote on each individual program would have meant seven ballot options.

A few weeks ago, I told you about DISD’s plan to ask voters for a tax increase to expand three important programs — pre-K, teacher pay (tied to its evaluation system), and early college. The district’s board will meet this evening to discuss the TRE proposal and decide whether to take it to voters via the November ballot.

I trumpeted the proposal and said all three aspects of it need your support. My first argument in favor of this was as follows:

The structure of this tax increase is very innovative, giving voters the opportunity to line-item their votes, and putting measures in place that will allow voters to sunset the tax increases in six years if student improvement metrics aren’t met.

Well, now only half of that is true. The accountability measures will still be there, and we can hold the district accountable for meeting its goals with our money. But it’s likely you won’t be able to line-item vote, because state law is such that this would require seven different measures on the ballot to vote on three items.

This is what the district plans to tell the board later today, according to people who know a thing or two about a thing or two: If this were a bond election, you could have voted yay or nay on each portion of the 13-cent tax increase tied to a program. But because this is a tax ratification, language in the statutes concerning ballot language says you have to offer voters a chance to vote on all seven possible permutations: 1) a vote for all three; 2) a vote for none of the three; 3) one only; 4) two only; 5) three only; 6) one and three; 7) two and three.

The district rightly believes that would be way too confusing and could easily lead to a majority favoring a tax increase but no one measure garnering the 50 percent yes votes needed to pass. DISD now plans to recommend one vote for the 13-cent increase, hoping that the measures discussed have been so successful to date that voters will understand it is vital we fund their expansion.

Which is still 100 percent true.The rush the district has been in to get this on the November ballot, which is crucial to countering the anti-tax-slash-anti-everything crowd, led to it not getting its t’s crossed and it’s i’s dotted. It shouldn’t affect your vote. Kids need what they need, and the city will be better for passing this. It’s unfortunate, though, that this gives the status quo trustees some ammo to use in arguments against putting the TRE on the ballot. (No, I don’t know exactly what those arguments will be. I dabble in crazy, but I’m not fluent in it.) But I suspect this will be a speed bump along the road and the TRE will eventually pass on its merits, as similar ones have in many other cities in North Texas.

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