DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In an exclusive report, CBS 11 News takes an in-depth look at the fight over control of the Dallas Independent School District. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is trying to shatter perceptions about the push for a home-rule district, and his role in it.

Home-rule is a sort of radical version of charter schooling, that would allow the DISD to ignore a number of state laws and implement their own in an effort to improve education.

Mayor Rawlings sat down with CBS 11’s Steve Pickett for an exclusive one-on-one interview. “What I’m trying to do is shake everybody up and say ‘our school system isn’t working,’” he said.

The elected political leader of Dallas has become a leading voice in a campaign on the direction of Dallas schools. “And why not? That’s the question. Because we like what’s going on now?” Rawlings asked.

But the very thing that Mayor Rawlings is pushing for, others are pushing against.

Reverend Ronald Wright, with Justice Seekers Texas, said,  “This a dictatorship that the Mayor is trying to bring out and take over our public schools. Why doesn’t the Mayor look at the City Council, and take care of your backyard before you take care of somebody else’s backyard.”

The growing fight surrounds the Mayor’s endorsement of a petition campaign brought forth by Support Our Public Schools – a group that professes to be, “focused on starting a community dialogue and grassroots movement to improve Dallas ISD.”

Mayor Rawlings said opposition to the home-rule proposal confuses him. “I don’t know what people are holding onto. I don’t. I think this system is broken and now we can build a new school system the way we want to, and we can be accountable for.”

The effort by Mayor Rawlings and Support Our Public Schools could result in a voter referendum to restructure Dallas ISD’s current operation and initiate a home-rule district.

Critics claim the new system would mean trustees could be removed, teachers could lose contracts, and the mayor could effectively run the school system.

Mayor Rawlings said the home-rule district proposal isn’t about him, but during the CBS 11 interview Steve Pickett asked, “The Mayor will be the CEO of the Dallas School District, would you support that?” Rawlings answered, “I don’t know. I would have to put it in the context of everything else. If over 80,000 people in this city say that idea is a good idea, I think democracy has spoken and we’ve got to endorse it.”

Teacher groups, DISD education advocates and others say the Mayor and home-rule will have a fight on their hands.

There is a lot at stake in this fight. The Dallas ISD is the largest district in Texas, with some 159,000 students and a $1 billion budget. If the proposal is approved it would be the first district in the state to adopt home-rule. With so much on the line, school districts across the state will be watching.

Just hours before the CBS 11 interview with Mayor Rawlings, DISD Superintendent Mike Miles said the district doesn’t need to heave home-rule implemented and is continuing to get better on its own.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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