Critical Needs for Continued Progress

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In 2013, Dallas led the country in the growth of millionaires, with these families controlling over $450 BILLION in personal wealth.
 
At the same time, the city of Dallas has the highest child poverty rate in America. 4 in 10 Dallas children live below the poverty line, which is the equivalent of a family of 4 earning less than $24,000 per year.
 
A staggering 50,000 children in Dallas live in extreme poverty, in a household making less than $12,000 per year. And nearly 4,500 students enrolled in Dallas ISD qualify as homeless.
 
How has Texas and in particular, Dallas, become such an example of massive inequality?
 
The root causes of this inequality run deep, but our failure to provide every child access to a quality education has been a primary driver.
 
Currently only half enter the school system prepared to succeed in Kindergarten. 89% of the students in Dallas ISD are considered to be economically disadvantaged (the highest percentage in North Texas), 43% of student are English Language Learners and 65% of students are considered at-risk by the State.
 
Yet, even considering these immense challenges, Dallas ISD has the 3rd lowest tax rate in North Texas (only Highland Park with zero poverty and Azle ISD have lower rates) and has had the same tax rate for a decade.
 
However, Dallas ISD has not blinked in the face of these challenges, and over the past four years, has made tremendous academic progress that deserves to the celebrated. Accomplishments include:

  • Kindergarten Readiness has grown by 12% since 2012
  • Pre-K enrollment has grown by 43% since 2012, to over 11,000 students annually
  • 40% of students now accessing IB/AP classes, up from 33% since 2012
  • 14,209 fewer students attending an Improvement Required campus, a 47% reduction, in 2 years
  • Career certificate attainment rates have increased by 4X over the last 2 years
  • Early College High School programs on track at all 22 comprehensive high schools by 2018
  • Piloting the first two schools where student enrollment is intentionally balanced based on family incomes
  • Board policy to eliminate discretionary suspensions for students in grades PK-2 by 2022-23 

To their credit, Dallas ISD has not complained about being the highest poverty school district in a city with one of the lowest tax rates, but simply focused on providing the very best for their students on less and less – but they can only do that for so long until the resources run out.
 
Furthermore, Dallas ISD has roughly 33% LESS money to spend per student than the national average for school districts. As a result, hard choices are made each year during the budgeting process, choices that kids shouldn’t have to suffer from and that elected Boards’ shouldn’t be forced into making. We shouldn’t have to choose between expanding pre-K or keeping librarians, paying teachers well or providing college counselors for primarily underserved, first generation students.
 
Our kids are being short changed by a state that has failed to make education a priority, particularly for those growing up without wealth and privilege.
 
Don’t be fooled by rising property values and assume that Dallas ISD is receiving more money to put towards are students. As local valuations increase, the State simply contributes less, pushing the burden away from them. Case and point is the current Dallas ISD budget which saw an increase in local revenue of $87M and a decrease in State revenue of $97M – a net LOSS of $10M.
 
Despite a Texas Supreme Court ruling that the State Legislature should overhaul public school funding, the legislature once again failed to act, leaving taxpayers in Dallas with a choice. Do we choose to invest wisely to break the cycle of poverty? Do we believe our kids are worth it?
 
We at DallasKidsFirst are advocating for a Tax Ratification Election to be brought to the voters – a small increase between 6-13 cents (depending on the Board decision) on our property taxes which has the power to make a big difference in our public schools and in the lives of more than 158,000 Dallas ISD students.
 
Our kids are worth it, our educators are worth it, and the District has earned it with the great progress over the past four years. Let’s all come together and support the district, giving them the ability to continue this progress for our students – the future depends on it.

The Board will vote on August 5 to decided whether they place a TRE on the ballot in a special election. We hope you will encourage your Dallas ISD Trustee to support the measure. Contact information for each trustee can be found here. If you need help knowing who your trustee is, send us a note at info@dallaskidsfirst.org.