DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – For the first time, Dallas Independent School District leaders will listen to people on both sides of the home rule issue on Thursday. The debate is in regards to changing the leadership structure of the state’s second largest public school district.

A home rule charter, simply put, gives the school district the freedom to make its own rules, and create an educational road map that is separate from that of the state.

In the case of the Dallas ISD, a separate group initiated the required petition campaign to see if voters would approve a home rule district. Those signatures are now being counted by Dallas ISD officials.

Presumably, the next step would be the formation of an appointed home rule commission, made up of 15 people — an ethnically diverse group of parents and teachers. They would write a home rule charter, which would be voted on by the community. But, regardless of that vote’s outcome, if less than 25 percent of the voting public voices their opinion, none of it matters.

There are many people who strongly oppose the home rule plan, saying that there is no need to take this measure. But supporters see it as a tool to improve the school district both politically and academically.

One of the parents who would be working on the charter is an attorney who said that the proposal would change three things. First, school board trustees would get to set the first day of school, not the state. Second, while the nine districts would remain intact, voters within a single district would have the right to remove their trustee. Third, trustees would only be able to serve for three three-year terms — nine years of service.

“The petition has been turned in and we are forced to have the discussion about what the charter should say,” explained attorney and Dallas ISD parent Mark Melton.

The cost of simply exploring the issue has already started to add up. The Dallas County Board of Elections estimates that the Dallas ISD will pay $800,000 to put the issue on the ballot. And on Monday, school board trustee voted to hire an attorney to guide the board through home rule, at a cost of up to $250,000.

The school board meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, with the board formally stamping the validity of the petition signatures 45 minutes beforehand. Each side of the issue will be given 10 minutes to present their thoughts.

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