You are here

Editorial: Dallas ISD home-rule commission must keep pushing for school reform

Dallas Morning News
January 19, 2015

For seven months, a commission of volunteers has been arguing and listening to arguments on how to bring major change to the operation of Dallas public schools.

The prospect that Dallas ISD could decouple from the Texas Education Agency and become a home-rule district has tantalized proponents of reform and created concern among those who prefer the established order.

Today, the DISD Home-Rule Charter Commission will take two important votes that will determine whether its work will help advance this debate in Dallas or whether the volunteers’ time was poorly spent.

First, the commission should vote to draft a charter plan to present to the school board. The commission was given a year to make that decision, and commissioners who support the current system shouldn’t be allowed to block aspirational efforts for improvement.

Second, regardless of the first vote, the commission should adopt a motion to present its best recommendations for reform to the school board.

This commission has spent hours listening to speakers from every side of the home-rule debate. Its members have developed an expertise that few people in this city have.

Commission Chairman Bob Weiss, a man who has generously given his time to his city over many years, has steered the commission through difficult and heated subjects.

The commission has offered the public a fair and open process.

Now it’s time for the commission to debate ideas with an eye toward turning them into a proposed charter.

There are a lot of politics swirling around this. Plenty of interest groups would like to influence the commission’s process. Some of those are commissioners who have been dedicated from Day One to shutting down debate in the name of preserving the status quo.

Commissioners should resist any interest that isn’t geared toward making our school board and schools function better and lead to better learning opportunities for our students.

The commission’s best work might come from focusing not on changing classroom operations but on reforming a school board that for too long has been more worried about contracts and hiring than the education of children.

The group Support Our Public Schools submitted a draft charter to the board with weighty ideas for creating a more accountable school board — something opponents of reform seem particularly interested in stymieing. That draft is a good place for the commission to start.

A home-rule charter may not be needed to implement reforms. But the heat of a public debate, and the possibility of a vote, may be enough to stir overdue action.

Ideas worth pursuing

November elections: Shift school board elections from May to November to increase voter participation.

Term limits: Limit school board service to three four-year terms.

Recall: Give voters the power to recall trustees to add accountability.

Redistricting: Create an independent commission to draw school board boundaries.