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Dallas ISD’s mission to save the district – Part One: How the vote failed

ROBYN H. JIMENEZ | 9/18/2017, 11:42 a.m.
Possibly the most contentious issue the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees has had to deal with in the past two ...
Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. Standing, from left: Dustin Marshall, Joyce Foreman, Miguel Solis, Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn. Seated, from left: Audrey Pinkerton, Dan Micciche, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Edwin Flores and Jaime Resendez.

The Dallas Examiner

Possibly the most contentious issue the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees has had to deal with in the past two years has been the vote to approve the order of a Tax Ratification Election. Though the TRE proposal was previously presented to the public and local organizations as a simple tax increase with guaranteed benefits that the community couldn’t afford not to vote for, a recent school board meeting revealed that each part of the proposal was complicated and no part of the program was guaranteed.

On Aug. 18, the board discussed a revised TRE that was presented last year. As the meeting began, the motion to consider and take possible action to approve the resolution was made by Trustee Bernadette Nutall and seconded by Trustee Joyce Foreman.

TRE options included a 2 cent tax swap, a 6 cent tax increase and a 13 cent tax increase. If one option passed, it would be placed on the ballot for the community to make the final decision.

All of the trustees agreed that the TRE was needed and voted on at least one option. However, they could not all agree on which option would better serve the community. Most votes came down to concerns about raising taxes some homeowners couldn’t afford to pay versus having enough money to fully fund programs to help advance the academics and buildings of the district.

Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Dallas ISD superintendent, explained the district’s sense of urgency pertaining to the TRE as well as changes to the proposal.

Noting that some opponents to last year’s TRE proposal listed concerns about racial and economical equity, one of the most significant changes that he pointed to was the Funds for Achievement and Racial Equity. The funding would have supported schools identified as Improvement Required as well as academically fragile schools – meaning schools that had previously been on the IR list or were close to being placed on the list.

The FARE schools would receive support for three years. Moreover, he noted there were specific progress goals for African American students, pointing out that African American students make up 4,159 of the 8,114 students in IR schools.

But it may also be important to note that 7,474 of those 8,114 students are being raised in economically disadvantaged households.

With a 2 cent tax swap, FARE could receive $5.4 million for 14 IR schools. With the 6 cent TRE, it could receive $17.6 million for 41 IR and academically fragile schools and with the 13 cent to TRE for 41 IR and fragile schools, it could receive $40 million.

The funds would not be available until January, and the 14 or 41 schools would have a short window in which to spend the money on approved programs. All spending would have to be approved first. Any money that is not spent within the designated time frame would be sent back to the district.

“We have a few months to make a big impact,” Hinojosa stated. “But if we don’t spend all the money, we’re going to organize this through our accounting structure where these funds are only dedicated to the schools. And if the money’s not spent it goes to the fund balance. Later the board can either say we’re going to assign that fund balance for the schools for the next year so they can get started or we can put it in the general fund balance and make some other decisions about how we’re going to treat our fund balance.”