There’s No Help Coming
Given the failure of our federal and state governments to invest adequately in public education, we must act locally to ensure Dallas ISD has the resources needed to prepare tomorrow’s leaders, our kids, for the future.
We must act now, as Dallas ISD’s future is at greater risk than ever. Because of Texas’ broken school finance system, even with the recent rise of property valuations, Dallas ISD has been forced to cut its budget and make tough choices.
Dallas ISD cut $21M from its 2016-17 budget and nearly $60M from the current year’s 2017-18 budget. Despite reducing central administration costs (per state funding codes, Dallas ISD spends less than 1% of its budget on Central Administration), these cuts are having a real impact on students, leading to fewer librarians, nurses and counselors and larger student-teacher ratios.
Making matters worse, with property values continuing to rise and enrollment inching downward, Dallas ISD faces “Robin Hood” (or Chapter 41) recapture beginning next year; this will force the district to return a projected $18M to the state in 2018-19 alone and as much as $788M in total by 2022-23.
This looming scenario will mean that even fewer local tax dollars will stay within the district and force even tougher choices, including further staff reductions and school closings.
We Must Protect Progress
Despite budget constraints, Dallas ISD has been making noteworthy gains in student achievement by passing new policies and investing in new strategies: expanding access to Pre-K, paying its most experienced and effective teachers more to work in its most challenging schools, offering collegiate academies where students can earn an associate’s degree with their high school diplomas, and more.
Dallas ISD has worked hard to examine its budget, uncover as many savings as possible, and prioritize strategies to continue its progress. However, these savings aren’t nearly enough; the district needs additional revenue to keep innovating and building on other promising ideas.
In Spring 2017, across Dallas ISD over 2,000 residents were surveyed with 58% willing to support a $.13 tax increase.
No Excellence without Equity
A history of legally-sanctioned housing and school segregation have divided our city by race, class and ethnicity. The impact of these policies and practices continue to play out today. Dallas can no longer afford to waste the incredible potential of all its children.
With children of color comprising over 90% of our student population, our city’s future demands our collective commitment to intentionally solve our region’s equity challenges to create increased opportunity and prosperity for all.
Within Dallas ISD, the district has embraced strategies to close racial and income opportunity gaps. High quality Pre-K helps gives students a more equitable starting line; the Accelerating Campus Excellence initiative has more equitably distributed the district’s most effective teachers to turnaround its most challenging schools; collegiate academies are allowing more high school students to earn college credit, many of whom will be the first in their families to do so; a new discipline policy is phasing out suspension of students in Pre-K through Grade 2, a practice which has disproportionately removed Black and Brown students from the learning environment and contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline.
The Dallas ISD administration has expressed a willingness to elevate equity more fully within its operations, planning and decision-making, recently forming a Racial Equity Office and passing a Racial, Socio-economic, and Educational Equity Policy.
The people of Dallas share a belief that public education is the single most important issue facing our city. Yet, despite having the highest percentage (88%) and number of students living in poverty, Dallas ISD has one of the lowest tax rates in North Texas.
More than 430 other school districts across the state, including 30 in North Texas, have already passed Tax Ratification Elections (TREs) to raise their local school district tax rate and make up for the State’s reduced investment in education. Dallas ISD has not touched its tax rate in more than 10 years, making it much more challenging to compete with these neighboring school districts.
Based on the latest projections, a 13-cent Tax Ratification Election would net as estimated $98M in additional annual revenue for operations next year, allowing Dallas ISD to build on recent progress, grow enrollment and close equity gaps. Voters would ultimately decide at the ballot box whether to increase their property taxes by 13 cents per every $100 value of their home, but only following approval by at least 6 of Dallas ISD’s 9 Board of Trustees.