On November 7th, DallasKidsFirst Recommends Voting “AGAINST” on the Dallas County Schools Resolution – Our Students Deserve Better
November 8, 2017 update: 58% of 81,114 Dallas County voters voted to shut down Dallas County Schools. Transportation for the remainder of this school year will remain unchanged. A dissolution committee will be appointed and begin their work over the next few days.
The mission statement of Dallas County Schools (DCS - not to be confused with Dallas Independent School District) states, “we strive to be a trusted, solutions-oriented partner that not only serves the learning community, but also municipalities throughout the state with innovative solutions.” However, the reality is that Dallas Kids First is unable to reconcile the responsibility to serve Dallas County as described above with the current level of service and financial condition of DCS.
Dallas Kids First (DKF) supports policies and practices that put the interests of student first and that are budget responsible, and it is through that lens, that we cannot support the continuation of Dallas County Schools for Dallas ISD and the other districts they serve.
The research that led us to this conclusion started with examining the level of service that Dallas ISD students and campuses are receiving, and the results are shocking to say the least. Examples of a negative impact on our students, include:
- Valuable classroom instruction missed due to late arrival. In 2015-2016 school year, DCS buses had a 64% on time arrival rate. Just think about that, four out of every ten students that rode the bus arrived to school late and missed classroom instructional time. This statistic is even more troubling when you consider that 88% of Dallas ISD’s student population is economically disadvantaged and rely on Breakfast in the Classroom to be physically prepared for the day of learning; a breakfast that is served during first period which a student would miss if late to school.
An appalling safety record. Since 2011-2012, there has been an average of 419 accidents/incidents per year involving DCS buses. Said another way, that is one accident/incident per every 69 students that ride the bus. Each of these accidents/incidents put our children’s safety and security at risk, and although we understand accidents happen, 419 per year is a mindboggling number. To put that in perspective, a number of other transportation providers were researched, including the provider for Hillsborough County Schools in Florida, the 8th largest school district in the Country, never once had more than 50 accidents/incidents in a single year transporting more students across larger districts.
Missed extracurricular opportunities for an already underserved student population. There is no better way to express this point than to use the words of a Dallas ISD teacher. “In the past year alone I can think of several instances where my students were denied the opportunity to compete in sporting events and other extracurricular activities because DCS couldn't be bothered to provide reliable service. I've waited at stadiums and ball fields for countless hours, only to find out that the bus never showed up at the school to pick up the kids. Our baseball team has had to forfeit JV games so Varsity had enough time to play on at least two occasions. Our entire swim team missed a meet last month because of DCS error. Our soccer team had buses break down and students had to walk the remaining mile to a district game or forfeit. My kids don't deserve that.”
As if above issues directly impacting students wasn’t enough, DKF also focuses a great deal on quality governance, and if we were completing one of our scorecards for the DCS Administration and Board of Trustees, they would most certainly receive an “F.” There is evidence of extreme issues of financial mismanagement involving taxpayer dollars and administrators and elected board members are named in numerous news reports and investigations for serious infractions that have led to Texas legislators’ taking bipartisan action to consider dissolution of Dallas County Schools. Specific examples that bring us to the conclusion that voters should seriously consider an “AGAINST” vote include:
- A per student cost to the Dallas ISD that has doubled (~$800 to $1,600) since 2011-12 with 22,000 less riders and historically low fuel costs, with no explanation on why this is the case.
- DCS borrowed funds to the tune of $52M to enter into a revenue-producing stop arm camera program with districts outside Dallas County which ultimately led to millions in lost revenue.
- Dallas County Schools has turned over records to the Texas Rangers who are charged with investigating public corruption.
- Questions around campaign contributions of more than $200K from a vendor (who was ultimately awarded a multi-million-dollar contract) to the board president and general transparency of campaign finance reports of all board members.
- DCS sold a number of properties for $25M, then turned around and leased the same properties back for $47M, passing on the increased lease amount to its district partners. Dallas ISD paid (unbeknownst to them due to poor transparency from DCS) $2M towards this questionable land deal, money that should have been in the classroom.
- DCS has a financial rating that is considered to be “junk status”, has defaulted on debt payments, and over the past year, DCS has had two Superintendents, two Chief Financial Officers, and the Board President all resign which points to the incredible dysfunction and uncertainty around the current DCS operations.
The safety of our students comes first and foremost, and parents should have the confidence that their children will arrive to school in a safe and on time manner, while being prepared for the academic day and able to enjoy their extracurricular activities. Furthermore, taxpayers (which pay a $.01 property tax to DCS) deserve transparency from their elected officials, which the DCS Board of Trustees is, free from corruption or back-room deals, and who stay true to the mission of their organization and do so with fidelity. Even with recent leadership changes at DCS, DKF has zero confidence that the product will improve and believe strongly that there must be a better alternative.
At the bottom of the ballot, make sure to vote “AGAINST” on the Dallas County Schools proposition.
Early Voting Dates:
Monday, October 23 – Saturday, October 28 8:00am to 5:00pm
Sunday, October 29 –1:00pm to 6:00pm
Monday, October 30 – Wednesday, November 1 8:00am to 5:00pm
Thursday, November 2 – Friday, November 3 7:00am to 7:00pm
Early Voting Location Finder (vote anywhere in Dallas County)
Tuesday, November7 7:00am to 7:00pm (vote in your precinct)