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Home Rule Petition Signatures Verified, Plan Moves Forward

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The plan that would allow the Dallas Independent School District to break away from state regulations, also known as home rule, has cleared its latest hurdle.

DISD has verified 24,650 petition signatures, as required by law to put the issue before Dallas voters.  The petition, which was circulated by the group “Support Our Schools” and submitted to the DISD Board of Trustees last week, contained about 48,000 signatures.  More than 21,000 signatures were deemed invalid because they were duplicates, came from individuals living outside the district, with questionable addresses, or a cancelled voter registration.

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.  Most of the commission must be made up of parents of school age children enrolled in public school.  A quarter of the commission must be classroom teachers.  DISD has 30 days from the date of receiving the petition to create the commission, which will write a home rule charter.

The charter will 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.  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.

“The board is committed to selecting a commission that will seriously consider all of the issues related to creating a home-rule charter,” said the president of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees Eric Cowan. “Tonight, we will listen to representatives of the group that circulated the petition as well as a group of citizens that is opposed to creating a new charter. We owe it to all parties to listen thoughtfully so that a commission can be appointed that honors the dialogue taking place within the community regarding our schools and school district.”

Dallas School Board Trustee Mike Morath is the man behind the home rule proposal, though he’s not sure it will work.

“I still think home rule with outcomes would give us ways to improve outcomes for our kids, and that’s what we all want. But, home rule could also not,” said Morath.

Morath believes the current board is to focused on matters that have little to do with improving student achievement.  Morath wants to change rules for trustees, set possible term limits, realign school board priorities and possibly set a recall option for voters.

Opponents of the home rule plan recently formally organized and formed the group, “Our Community, Our Schools.”

That group and other critics of the plan say home rule is an attempt to take control of the elected body of the school board.

“They don’t like the board even though they supported the board.  They view the election of a duly elected school board. It would be an impediment to their idea of reform,” said John Fullinwider, who opposed the home rule proposal.

DISD will hear presentations from both sides at its regular board meeting Thursday evening.  The board has also called a special board meeting at 9 p.m. to discuss how it will appoint the commission.

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