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 for the future.
We must act now, as Dallas ISD’s future is at greater risk than ever. Because of the state’s 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 its budget by $20M in the 2016-17 school year and is facing an even larger budget shortfall in 2017-18. Making matters worse, with property values continuing to rise and enrollment inching downward, Dallas ISD faces “Robin Hood” as soon as 2018-19; this would force the district to return as much as $343M to the state by 2021-22.
This looming scenario will mean that even fewer local tax dollars will stay within the district and force even tougher choices, including possible staff reductions and school closings.
We Must Protect Progress
Dallas ISD has made important progress in recent years and can only continue to move forward with greater collective investment.
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
Given current budget constraints, 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 won’t be nearly enough; the district needs additional revenue to keep innovating and building on other promising ideas.
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 talents and contributions 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 give students a more equitable starting line; the ACE program 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 will phase 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, beginning with the completion of an external third-party equity assessment. Private philanthropic support is currently being pursued to fund both this assessment and related board and administration training on best practices that would guide how to incorporate findings into daily and long-term strategic action.
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.
A Tax Ratification Election could generate as much as $105M in additional annual revenue for operations, allowing Dallas ISD to build on its recent progress, grow enrollment and close equity gaps. Voters would ultimately decide at the ballot box whether to approve a TRE, following approval by at least 6 of Dallas ISD’s 9 Board of Trustees.