Thursday, May 1, 2014

House Bill 5, Toyota, and the Mayor of Dallas

So what do the three of these have in common?  Community engagement lies at the core of this trifecta, some positive, some not so much.  Most are aware that the Mayor of Dallas has proposed that Dallas ISD become a home rule district, an action that would remove the board of trustees and change the manner in which DISD is governed.  Thankfully, this has met with strong opposition from a wide array of groups but that is not the premise of this blog.

Unfortunately, the Mayor has continued his public criticism of DISD by suggesting that part of Toyota’s decision to relocate their US headquarters from Torrance, CA to Plano, TX was based on concerns about the quality of education provided by DISD.  Toyota certainly weighed a number of factors when making a decision to relocate their headquarters and to bring 4000 jobs to the Metroplex; quality of education no doubt was one of them.  But for the Mayor to single out DISD is patently unfair to the staff and students of DISD.  Like any district, DISD has issues but it is unfair to blame Toyota’s decision on DISD.  Perhaps the Mayor would be better served by engaging the district in discussions about how to address what he perceives to be weaknesses in DISD.

And that’s where the reference to HB 5 comes in.  Under the Community and Student Engagement part of HB 5, communities and districts are required to work closely with each other to set metrics for performance in a number of areas, and to then define corrective action plans where those metrics are not being attained.  To suggest that “fostering economic development” is one of those attributes is not within the scope of HB 5.  However, as a whole, focusing on the eight attributes defined in HB 5 will help tell the story of performance in a district and how it is working to improve, putting all parties in a better position to leverage those successes to the benefit of the entire community.  Dallas ISD is no different than the rest of our districts in that regard and, given cooperation between public officials and the district, stands a far better chance of addressing shortcomings than continually being subjected to criticism by the Mayor.

This, to me, seems to be a golden opportunity for the City administration and the District administration to sit down and discuss their respective needs.  To succeed, the district needs the support of the Mayor and the citizens of Dallas in defining not just what the State requires relative to public education, but what the Mayor and City want to see from the District.  There are no winners when it comes to the Mayor’s continued criticism of DISD; it’s time for all parties to embrace the spirit of House Bill 5 and to come together to address the challenges and opportunities in educating DISD students.  These students deserve the opportunity to succeed; a more cooperative effort will help them do so.

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