Open Letter To Dallas ISD Superintendent & Board of Trustees:

To: Superintendent Hinojosa and Dallas ISD School Board Trustees

From: Strong Schools Strong Dallas coalition members

Date: Monday, July 31, 2017

Re: Dallas ISD Tax Ratification Election

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Thank you for fighting for our kids and for the countless hours you dedicate to positively impact their futures. Your efforts are making a difference and moving the district in the right direction. It is no small feat that, per Education Resource Group, Dallas ISD has moved from the 24th percentile in academic performance (achievement adjusted for poverty) in 2007 to the 82nd percentile today among the state’s top 200 school districts.

We also applaud you for recognizing that much work remains to be done, especially to confront persistent and serious racial and socioeconomic disparities in achievement across the district. Investments in early childhood education and in programs like ACE and collegiate academies are improving the academic trajectory of young people’s lives. Furthermore, adopting explicit goals around closing achievement gaps and initiating a third-party equity assessment represent important steps, and we are eager to work with the district to deepen this commitment to equity through continued learning, policy change, and investments that support students who are struggling the most.

You have accomplished all this while making difficult budget decisions, year after year, due to the Texas Legislature’s continued failure to prioritize the funding of public education. Whether it means eliminating librarian positions, increasing class sizes, or cutting college readiness positions, we recognize that these tough decisions are ones you do not want to make but are forced to make because the State of Texas isn’t keeping up its end of the bargain.

Several significant studies have come out in recent years making the connection between increased funding and improved student performance. As the New York Times reported, “… states that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t. The size of the effect was significant. The changes bought at least twice as much achievement per dollar.”

We know that Dallas ISD has 30 percent less money per student than the national average, yet some seem surprised when our students, 90 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, aren’t performing at the academic level we expect.

We must continue to advocate on behalf of our students in Austin, and we will. Without a dramatically larger investment in public education, our city and our state will not be able to keep up with the demand for a college-educated workforce. But, if we take seriously our responsibility to provide every student in Dallas ISD with an excellent education, and if we view education as a critically important tool to break the cycle of poverty in our city, then we must do everything in our power to invest in our students as if their lives depend on it. Because their lives do depend on how we act, as does the future of our city.

Over the last seven months, the Strong Schools Strong Dallas coalition has invested significant time and energy listening to parents, teachers, students, residents and voters across the city to understand their priorities and hopes for Dallas ISD. From this work, we know your constituents understand that Dallas ISD needs additional funding to provide an excellent education to every student; they know this from their own daily experience and from the data. They want better for the children of Dallas, and they are ready and willing to contribute a small increase in their property taxes to make a difference. We respectfully ask that you support our call for a 13-cent Tax Ratification Election and allow the supporters of a strong public education system, your constituents, to cast this decisive vote.

Your partners in fighting for the students of Dallas,

Members of Strong Schools Strong Dallas

James Armstrong III, West Dallas One

Patricia Arvanitis, Leadership ISD

Stefan Berthelsen, Teach Plus Texas

Michelle Bobadilla, University Crossroads

Rev. Horace Bradshaw, South Oak Cliff Alumni “Bear Cave”

Allison Brim, Texas Organizing Project

Rev. Gerald Britt, CitySquare

Charlotte Carlisle, Children At Risk

Sagar Desai, Commit!

Melissa Higginbotham, Dallas Kids First

Arnulfo Garza, Faith In Texas

Kiyundra Gulley, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce

John Hill, CAMP Fellows

Pastor Maxie Johnson, South Oak Cliff Parents Coalition

Norma Nelson, Readers 2 Leaders

Damarcus Offord, Individual

Marcia Page, Education Is Freedom

Mollie Sanders, Rebirth of Red Bird

Ray de los Santos, North Texas LULAC District 3

Susan Schuerger, Woodrow Wilson High School Community Foundation

Debbie Sherrington, Hillcrest High School Community Foundation

Dolores Sosa-Green, Trinity River Mission

Taylor Toynes, For Oak Cliff

Ed Turner, Our Community Our Schools

Sara Urquidez, Academic Success Program

Rachelle Warren, Individual

Brandi Watts, Stand for Children

Abby Williams, United to Learn

Members