Over the last few years, the outcomes at Dallas ISD have been on the up and up. Whereas 43 schools were marked “improvement required” by the state in 2013-14, just four received that distinction when the latest ratings came out earlier this year. Those ratings also showed that 40 percent of district students met the state standard on the STAAR exam—still below the state-wide 47-percent mark, but much better than the 29 percent that made standards back in ’13-’14.
District officials say the improvements are the result of several progressive programs instituted during that span. One key initiative incentivizes the best teachers and principals to stick around, and even to move to the schools that need the most help. Another the district touts is school CHOICE, creating specialized campuses that pull students from across the district. And then there’s early childhood education.
All of it costs money. None of it was ever going to get the axe, according to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. Before the election, I asked him what would happen to those programs should the people of Dallas County decide not to pass a tax ratification election to grant the district an extra $120 million a year. “We’ll do those programs no matter what, but it’s going to be very painful to keep doing those things,” he said. “I would have to cut $30 million, which equates to 300 positions in the district.”
That won’t be necessary, as Proposition C passed by a tally of 59.9 percent “for” to 40.1 percent “against.” The 13-cent increase to the maintenance and operating tax rate—bringing it to the state maximum of $1.17—will mean an extra $33 a month on a $300,000 home. With the money, DISD says it will be able to put more money into existing programs and dip into what Hinojosa classified as the next frontier, which is racial equity.
“The community has spoken,” Hinojosa said on Wednesday. “They want us to be successful, and they see some things that are working, and they’re willing to put some skin in the game to keep this going.”
TREs also passed in Richardson and Frisco ISDs, as districts continue to turn to local voters for financial support they say isn’t coming from the state level.
It was just one of DISD’s four wins on Tuesday night. In another, the district took a step toward remedying the issues it has faced since bringing the school bus system in-house. The transition has been less than smooth, with students and parents complaining of extensive wait times since day one.
Proposition A, which passed by a 73.3 percent to 26.7 percent margin, will grant the district $75 million to put toward a new fleet of buses and a barn to house them. Hinojosa says Dallas County Schools—the corrupt, third-party operator that used to handle the district’s bussing—didn’t have a vehicle-replacement schedule. “We inherited 950 buses, and many of them are beyond their useful life, not in good order,” he said. “And we would have had to pay for them out of operating dollars.”
Proposition D, which authorizes the district to pay a $65 million recapture bill to the state through buying attendance credits, passed with 56.7 percent of the vote. And a $75 million bond to refinance dollars related to the 2015 bridge plan—Prop B—passed with 57.6 percent for. “These are all sound financial things that will help the district operate in good efficiency for the next several years,” Hinojosa said.