Sunday, April 20, 2014

Harryette Ehrhardt speaks on Home Rule, 4/17/2014

Harryette Ehrhardt, speaking on Home Rule, 4/17/2014,


In the Country of Texas Constitution of 1836, and in the 1845 State Constitution, the legislature was directed to make suitable provisions for support and maintenance of public schools. It is still in our Constitution. But in 1995 there was an attack on our public schools led by Representative Kent Grusendorf.  He doesn’t believe in public schools and supports school voucher and charter schools. He authored the ridiculous amendment as a part of the charter schools portion of the education code. I voted against it then as a legislator and I am against it now as a parent of 5 DISD graduates, former DISD student, teacher and administrator, board member and retired professor with a doctorate degree as a master teacher.

We believe teachers, administrators and the board should be held accountable for the education offered to our students, While DISD has the highest percentage of “limited English proficient” students in Texas urban districts, the Washington Post surveyed 1900 high schools and found DISD had 3 of the top 10 most academically rigorous schools in the nation.    US News evaluated over 21,000 US public high schools based on state proficiency standards and how well they prepared students for college.  A DISD high school has consistently ranked number one and 3 are in the top 20. Booker T. Washington had 5 students accepted to the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.  No other school in the nation had a better showing.  Accountability? Yes, we believe the staff and board are responsible for these impressive rankings and deserve our thanks!.  But is that good enough?  Until every student has an education that prepares him or her to be a productive fulfilled adult, we have more to do!
Do we need this home rule proposal to do it?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  We can change our board election date have year round schools, alter the school day, pay our teachers more, have full day kindergarten, reduce class size, all suggestions made by the Support Our Public Schools group without enacting this very questionable legislation. In fact, there is legislation to allow even  a substantive change  that would accommodate the White Rock group to be more independent with their own “board”, start date, budget,  school day schedule, curriculum, and the ability to raise additional money. This can be accomplish under current law—it might not even be possible be under home rule law.
In fact, if the considerable funds used to push this initiative were used to offer help to our schools, provide enrichment, encourage volunteer tutoring, recognize our excellent teachers with incentives provide scholarships to our children so that graduation could realistically mean college or advanced job training and donate money to buy  the things our teachers are now buying with their limited personal funds—if the group pushing home rule would do those things, the DISD difference would be quite remarkable.  And if those with money to invest in this effort chose to address the poverty which is a major factor in student learning with better job offerings,  incentives to children to stay in school, provisions allowing parents to more realistically support their children’s education, decrease evictions and offer internships then the results would be even more positive. If the City used its influence and vote for even more effectively crime prevention and safety, better transportation, elimination of disproportionate services to its citizens,  the educational results would be quite impressive. And if the citizens pushing home rule would use their considerable political clout and join with the City of Dallas and DISD  to advocate for much more favorable laws for public education not the least of which, adequate funding, the results would be astounding.

Why do we object to the home rule plan? 

First, it is not necessary! The supporters say the state demands a cookie cutter school district.  If you have any knowledge at all about our DISD schools, you know they are certainly not all the same!  State law allows that diversity now.

Second, we don’t know what it means—and we won’t unless it is enacted and then it will be too late if it is the failure as it is in other cities trying similar tactics. For example, a new charter could do away with homestead exemption or the over 65 cap. Even if a SOPS spokesperson says they have no intention of doing so, a charter on which we would vote could do away with all counselors, teacher contracts, magnet schools.  They could sell all DISD property and never come to us for a vote to stay in office.

Third, once in, it is very hard to remove!

Forth, the manner in which it has been done pretending it was a grass roots effort wanting public input has made a sham of the entire idea.

Fifth, the audacity of a group of non-educators with money thinking that because they were financially successful in their field, they knew what was best for our schools without consideration of educational research, input from parents, teachers, the board or the students, believing they should be able to tell us what we should do and we should like it, is very offensive. 
Sixth, the secrecy of the entire effort, who is funding it and why, there is good reason why those of us in public office have to disclose our finances.  It may be that no one in this group is expecting to reap personal gain from this initiative, but we have no way of knowing. We don’t know who is financing it or how the money is being spent or what personal interest the providers might have.
Seventh, the lack of any transparency—how many names have they been able to buy so far.  Has the charter been written making the entire thing a charade? What secret plans are already promised?

Eighth, the changing picture --  from the beginning suggesting an appointed board presumable by the mayor to last Tuesday’s op ed that there was not need to change the school board arrangement. Without any rudder on this boat, it sails in any wind direction.

Ninth, none of the process has addressed research about educating students.  There is no reference to what we have scientifically determined is good schooling.

Tenth, the entire rational for SOPS is that our schools are terrible—That’s just not true!

Eleventh, this is a slick PR campaign without substance.  Who can disagree with “Supporting  Our Public Schools” and now that they have not had the positive response because people don’t believe it does--their profession PR image makers have come up with “Reimagined Dallas ISD” to put a new face on a bad idea. We don’t fall for that either!

Twelfth, this is not a Dallas challenge.  The attempted takeover of our public schools replacing them with a form of privatization is a national crisis.

Last, even the suggestion of doing away with our single member districts governance is terrible!

We don’t want our children subjected to SOPS’ plan.

The reason we are here is to tell the city that there are those of us throughout DISD finding this a very inappropriate proposal and urging us all to join together to defeat this unnecessary, secretive, inappropriate, ill-conceived, unfounded idea once and for all!!!

We can join hands to support our board by demanding that every child get the education the best of our schools offer.