Panning A Charter Takeover of ALL Public Schools

The attempted charter takeover of the nation’s 14th-largest district is underway. Wealthy backers of the hostile takeover attempt have gathered enough signatures to force the anti-democratic maneuver onto the November ballot. I first discussed the attempted takeover of Dallas in the post Beware: A Hostile Takeover of ALL Dallas Public Schools is Underway. I also visited Dallas on the invitation of several community groups to discuss the Home Rule report and takeover. The nation must pay attention to this because this approach, if successful, may become the “reformers” next attack tactic of choice.

Notably, it appears that supporters of the takeover plan do not appear to be following the decades old Texas law that empowers them to takeover the Dallas district. The Dallas Morning News reported that

Dallas teachers group Alliance-AFT filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Dallas ISD, claiming that the district’s process to appoint a home-rule charter commission violates state law.

The lawsuit filed in Dallas County District Court argues that Dallas ISD has not followed the 1995 Texas law that outlines how districts appoint a home-rule charter commission. District trustees are in the middle of appointing 15 members to a home-rule commission to draft a new constitution for the district.

Alliance-AFT claims that DISD hasn’t followed the part of the law that outlines how the 15 members are appointed. By law, a quarter of the 15 members, or four members, must be classroom teachers selected by professionals on the district advisory committee.

Texas law says that the professionals on a district advisory committee must be elected. But Alliance-AFT claims that DISD’s members were appointed.

Alliance-AFT included an affidavit from DISD teacher and committee member Jimmy Guilllory, who said that he was not elected to the district advisory committee.

Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, former Pizza Hut CEO, has been publicly supportive of the charter takeover (what he apparently says in private is for another day). Which is a familiar story in Chicago, New York and elsewhere.

Currently, the upper crust of Dallas and Houston are in the process of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliver a Home Rule takeover. In response to being panned by many in the Dallas community. Mayor Rawlings has suggested to the media that a conversation around Home Rule be framed around four questions. I have addressed each of his questions in brief using empirical data and research.

What are the true DISD performance numbers?

There are of course many measures of performance that can be considered when evaluating the success of hundreds of schools and thousands of educators. As discussed in a previous Op-Ed in the DMN, in a prior policy brief entitled Digging into Data and Evidence, we conducted simple statistical analyses of Dallas ISD STAAR data for 3rd, 8th, and Math and English I Reading End of Course (EOC) to sample student performance across elementary, middle and high school levels in DISD. The analyses show a mixed bag in Dallas. While there was progress in middle school, overall elementary and high school performance on the STAAR and EOC are not statistically significant for most groups in Dallas ISD. Of note, there was significant blowback related to these analyses as evidenced by this.

Are there ways to improve the governance structure?

In a recent policy brief entitled Home Rule Takeover Q&A, we addressed the governance changes allowed by Home Rule. We noted that “everything not specifically stipulated in the law is fair game, including the splitting of Dallas ISD into several smaller districts, as well as turning the district over to mayoral control, a voucher system, or the control of a private, for-profit corporation.” In the case of mayoral control, we discussed Chicago, which has had an appointed school board for several decades. Has the governance change increased the success of students? The short answer is: No. For an analysis of the impact of mayoral control, an appointed school board and school closures in Chicago, please read the research briefs authored by CReATE, a volunteer group of Chicago-area education researchers.

What tools could the superintendent be given that he doesn’t currently have because of state mandates?

We also discuss alternatives to a Home Rule takeover in our policy brief. One tool that Mayor Rawlings could deliver for Dallas is the approach championed by Mayor Julian Castro in San Antonio— full-day universal Pre-K. There are very few gold standard reforms in the research literature. However, Pre-K is one of the educational policies with demonstrative evidence supporting its implementation, full-day showing more impact than half-day. For Latino/as and African Americans, Pre-K is shown to be especially promising for closing the achievement gap.

How can the district retain the best teachers possible?

The state already allows for increased pay and incentive pay above the minimum salaries. So the only reason that Dallas ISD would need a Home Rule exemption from the teacher salary schedules would be to pay educators less than the minimum ($27,320 for a first year teacher), or to cut the salaries of experienced teachers. Neither idea is likely to attract droves of high-quality teachers to Dallas ISD. The opposite actually is true in peer-reviewed research examining other urban districts. A study conducted at Stanford University by Professor Susanna Loeb shows that a salary increase can improve a school district’s attractiveness within their local teacher labor market and increase both the size and quality of the teacher applicant pool.

Rawlings appears to be looking for a recipe to make Dallas ISD schools great. It turns out that Dallas does not necessarily need a Home Rule takeover, an experimental and unproven recipe. Data and research have already been introduced into the public space to address each of the Mayor’s questions. It is up to Mayor Rawlings to support Dallas ISD reforms that are linked to evidence rather than experimental and unproven recipes.

In conclusion, there are other very important questions to be asked and answered besides those posed by Mayor Rawlings. Our society’s primary question should be what investments need to be made for low-income children to break the cycle of poverty and contribute to a vibrant democracy? Instead of moving around the chairs at the top, and turning over a $1 billion budget to a non-elected body, the Mayor should ponder what new financial investments the city can make in partnership Dallas ISD and the broader community to support low-SES students in their pursuit of life long learning to navigate a complex and rapidly changing world.

See also: Pawns of Industrialists and Financiers: Anti-Democracy Movement Gripping Education?

See also Diane Ravitch address Home Rule and privatization on Bill Moyers:

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s post on Dallas click here.

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p.s. How has the charter recovery district approach worked out in New Orleans? Go here.



Please blame Siri for any typos.


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  • School governance seems to be a wedge issue in the larger political landscape.

    Both rightest and leftest ideologies are potentially upset because of the issue of choice! Parents want choice for their children- left or right! New e-technologies seem to make “old style” school system governance, with Board elections and huge top down bureaucracy obsolete. New “systems” (charters and vouchers) might create worse problems and far less stability for average American children.

    The motivation behind “parental choice” and manipulation of it may cause many problems: re-segregation, less equity, openings for corporate greed and even corruption, educational victims from poorly run schools, and, less “real” accountability, and, lack of teacher standards. Thornburg, M.J., (1986) “Parental Choice in American Education” – a Masters Thesis, University of New Orleans.


  • First they came for the prison system, and I didn’t speak up because I’m not in prison.

    Next, they came for the public school system, and I didn’t speak up because I don’t have kids.

    Next they came for the public university system, and I didn’t speak up because I’m not in college.

    Next they came for the Social Security System, and I didn’t speak up because I’m not old.

    Next they came for the military, and I didn’t speak up because I’m not in the military.

    Next they came for the government, and I didn’t speak up because it was too late.


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  • The main purpose of charters has become 1. Busting the unions 2. Getting cheap teachers (likely non-teachers without Education degrees) 3. Eliminate tenure. 4. Avoid serving children with significant special needs

    When charters started back in the 1990s they were created by neighborhood based groups of parents and professionals, often because a local public school was closing or was chronically and extremely bad. This is how the first one in Atlanta came to be, started mainly by parents who had actually gone to a school that was closing themselves. Once chartered they started working on a middle school because the one to which their children were zoned was so horrible, with a series of really bad principals who had gotten their jobs based on who they knew and ran off the white children and white teachers. (Yes, I was there. I know.)

    Now charters have become nothing but a political game, takeover by the conservative state government—but only of the schools that are all minority/poor, religious gaming—financing religious schools that espouse the doctrines of conservative denominations, and for profit businesses. Almost none take kids with severe disabilities and English Language Learners. There was even an effort in the Louisiana Legislature to allow charters to exclude children who identified as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered two years ago. This was lead by the Louisiana Family Forum, a hate group with a non-profit number affiliated with the American Family Association.

    The New Orleans charters,for the most part and Recovery District Schools run by the state have blatantly failed and have the lowest test scores in the state. The only ones that are successful are those few that are run by the Board of Education, and even they have selective admissions.

    The purpose of charters has become political gain and the teachers and students are the ones suffering for it.


  • Rachel Dvoretzky

    HISD taking Laura and John Arnold Foundation money to hire California tenure-busting law firm to fight suit by 7 teachers against use of bad-data teacher evaluations for HR purposes.

    On Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 11:13 AM, Cloaking Inequity wrote:

    > Julian Vasquez Heilig posted: “The attempted charter takeover of the > nation’s 14th-largest district is underway. Wealthy backers of the hostile > takeover attempt have gathered enough signatures to force the > anti-democratic maneuver onto the the November ballot. I first discussed > the att”


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