THE ISSUE: Back to School

YES, MR. AND MRS. PARENT, YOU’VE HEARD IT ALL before. Johnny can’t read. Johnny can’t write. Our public schools are awful. Yes, you’ve read all the headlines; about how Nolan Estes public-relationed the city into a false sense of security and about how then, with the James Bond/Foundation For Quality Education scandal, the roof caved in. Then more scandalous revelations, more headlines. In fact, so many headlines, so many six o’clock news stories, that it’s all started sounding like a lot of hollow banging on the same drum. All the headlines and all the hand-wringing have failed to point out what a mess the classroom really is in.

But consider these bare facts: Dallas has the highest per-student expenditure and the lowest student test scores of any of the eight largest school districts in Texas. If Johnny could read this paragraph, he’d know in a minute that he isn’t getting his money’s worth.

But it really doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 20 pages of why it’s happened and how it can stop. There’s a teacher who sees her school at its worst, and there’s a principal who has made his school the best. There’s a DISD research department and its Ph.D. administrator whose multimillion-dollar budget has served mostly to bury the school district in paper, and there’s a strong-willed new superintendent who is struggling to sweep it up. There’s a school board that has justifiably been called “the worst elected governmental body that Dallas has ever seen” and there’s a not-so-modest proposal to usher them out of office.

And maybe, just maybe, in another two years, or another ten, Mr. and Mrs. Parent, you’ll find Johnny perusing some different headlines in the paper, and you’ll say, “Hey, Johnny can read.”

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