Residents Sound Off On DISD Vs. Charter Schools

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It could have been a routine discussion at Dallas City Hall, but it wasn’t. The topic — whether to create a non-profit corporation so a public charter school could issue bonds.

Instead the meeting took a turn and became a debate on whether public charter schools hurt the DISD.

“I’m asking please do not give monies to uproot education in our community,” said Dallas resident Shirley Daniels, who is critical of the public charter school expansion, especially when the DISD is preparing to close down schools.

Other residents echoed her criticism.   “Our city does not need to get into competition against the Dallas Independent School District,” said Marion Bennett.

Holsey Hickman added his concern.  “Now they’re coming up with a system to profit off the minds of our children, for profit.”

Rena Honea, president of the Alliance-AFT, a teachers labor group, was also critical.  “The charters compete with our public schools in the Dallas ISD.  They recruit students that would otherwise attend Dallas ISD schools,” she said.

Some councilmembers echoed the same concerns.   “I think that we are not giving our public schools the role that it needs and the support that it needs,” Carolyn Davis said adamantly.

Dallas City Councilmember Angela Hunt wondered aloud why there was such a rush for the non-profit corporation vote, since the proposal didn’t come in until last Friday.

“I’m not clear on why we would be moving forward in endorsing the charter school concept when we have DISD schools shuttering their doors.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings staunchly defended the proposal.  “I’m not going to personally stand to let poor people get bad education anymore,” he declared.   The discussion seemed to bring him to the verge of tears.  “Guys,” he pleaded to the council and audience, “we’ve got to come to terms with this. This is not about politics. This is not about neighborhoods. This is not about the old way of doing things. This is about the kids.”

Rawlings supports the concept of Uplift Education, which sponsors nine charter schools in Dallas-Fort Worth.   Uplift’s very demanding curriculum and goal is for every graduating senior to go to college.  The schools tend to fit into whatever spaces are available.   In the case of a West End academy, it’s the first floor offices of a Dallas West End parking garage.

Uplift routinely issues bonds, but now federal stimulus funds allow those bonds to be tax exempt if Dallas will create an umbrella-sponsoring corporation, at no cost or liability to the city.

But many speakers at council see the schools as a threat and blame them for some upcoming DISD shutdowns.  One resident also took the council to task because a proposed school is to be set in Deep Ellum.

“We think this is a terrible idea to have this school in Deep Ellum,” said neighbor Eric Wilson.  “It is an entertainment district; many of them are alcohol-related.  It’s a no-brainer that it shouldn’t be there.”

But Uplift’s CEO said it is compatible with multiple venues because it is a non-profit and money saved will go to improved buildings and teacher salaries.

“We are absolutely committed to the success of education in Dallas and we want to see DISD thrive as well,” said CEO Yasmin Bhatia.  “We just learned about all of the rules behind this new source of bond financing; and as soon as we learned there was a requirement to bring it forward to the city we brought it immediately forward to the city, to ask for their help.”

The council ultimately deferred the item for two weeks to allow for additional study and neighborhood comment.


One Comment

  1. Scottie Scott says:

    As a DISD teacher for 15 years, I know that the DISD is NOT in the business of educating students. They are after the money and to get the money, they are sacrificing education for test scores. For years, the district has forced teachers to pass students who are failing, disgard curriculum in order to teach the kids how to take a test, and get better numbers so the administration would stay off their backs rather than painting the real picture. Teachers are scared to report what is really happening because of the presure for low failure rates and better numbers. This tells the students that it doesn’t matter if they pass or not, they will be passed because the teachers don’t want the hassle of failures. If charter schools will educate the students of Dallas, we better get behind them. The DISD is NOT doing the job!

  2. Bill Betzen says:

    Go to and look at the map of the locations for the 11 schools that DISD closed. Pick the 10 closed schools closest to downtown and place a dot at the geographical center of those 10 locations. That is where this charter school will be located. Is there any relationship?

  3. Bill Betzen says:

    And here is an excerpt from an article in the Wall Street journal by Diane Ravitch “Why I Changed My Mind About School Reform”: ( )

    “When charter schools started in the early 1990s, their supporters promised that they would unleash a new era of innovation and effectiveness. Now there are some 5,000 charter schools, which serve about 3% of the nation’s students, and the Obama administration is pushing for many more.

    But the promise has not been fulfilled. Most studies of charter schools acknowledge that they vary widely in quality. The only major national evaluation of charter schools was carried out by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond and funded by pro-charter foundations. Her group found that compared to regular public schools, 17% of charters got higher test scores, 46% had gains that were no different than their public counterparts, and 37% were significantly worse.

    Charter evaluations frequently note that as compared to neighboring public schools, charters enroll smaller proportions of students whose English is limited and students with disabilities. The students who are hardest to educate are left to regular public schools, which makes comparisons between the two sectors unfair. The higher graduation rate posted by charters often reflects the fact that they are able to “counsel out” the lowest performing students; many charters have very high attrition rates (in some, 50%-60% of those who start fall away). Those who survive do well, but this is not a model for public education, which must educate all children”

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