Friday, July 31, 2015

Dallas ISD Bond Election fails w/o transparency - Split it into two elections for time for transparency

Dallas ISD urgently needs the $1.6 billion bond election to pass this November, but it will fail due to lack of trustee credibility.

Yes, new DISD schools and additions are needed, especially additional pre-k classrooms, but in the current form the bond election will not pass due to the recent history of secrecy and manipulation within DISD. Such adult issues have already led, within just the past two years, to the loss of 7 years of student achievement progress.  DISD has reverted to student achievement levels of 2007/08, a major loss!

The Future Facilities Task Force (FFTF) staff came to the 7-22-15 DISD board meeting, after a year of work, very poorly prepared. They did not have basic data such as:
  1. A report on the many community meetings they managed asking for public input.  How many residents attended? What were their questions?  Where there questions repeated at each meeting? What was the level of general public support for a bond election?  
  2. A report from the Attendance Zone Committee affirming bond needs presented by FFTF.  That committee has not even been meeting!  As Trustee Foreman pointed out, DISD has overcrowded schools and underutilized schools.  We must know that busing or other alternatives are not available.
  3.  A report on the 2008 Bond Program as to how it worked out.  What did DISD say they would do with the money? What was actually done?  Too many people in the community speak about previous bond program promises that have not been completed.  This data through February is on the 2008 Bond Election web site at
  4.  A report on the private and charter school capacity under construction or recently completed in DISD.  How can a bond election happen without some assessment of what the DISD competition is doing?
  5. A report on the current capacity and utilization of choice schools already open in DISD.  Only 3 are filled to capacity with the remaining being as little as 40% utilized.  Can FFTF document the need without the slanted surveys they used with the public, and then did not report on?
There is not enough time now to properly answer the questions related to these and many more areas of concern on the $1.6 bond program.  However student’s needs cannot be ignored. 

If the election were to be split into two bond elections, $400 million this November and the balance in November of 2017, the chance of it passing would improve significantly with no delay in the planned funding.

If the full $1.6 bond were to pass in November, the first $400 million in bonds was planned to go out in March 2016 with the next $600 million in bonds going out in March 2018, and the final $600 million in March 2020.  This planned process does not need to change in splitting the election for the $400 million this November and the remaining balance in November 2017.

It would be well worth the estimated $300,000 expense of an additional bond election in 2017 for both DISD and the general public to be more certain of the direction DISD is going with these $1.6 billion in public money.  The bond elections would pass with better information.  Public certainty is critical for this election to pass! 

By November 2017 DISD may see enough growth in both student achievement and enrollment that an even larger bond program may be needed, and passed, by that time.  Let’s plan for two elections if there is a real urgency. Transparency, public trust, and a certainty that this bond election will succeed, are the issues.

Bill Betzen