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Trustees hear bond election feedback

By Suzanne Sprague

DALLAS – Suzanne Sprague, KERA 90.1 Reporter: It was billed as a public hearing. But while Dallas School Board members sat in their cramped, executive session meeting room, the public watched the session on closed circuit television down the hall. Citizens filed in and out for their three minutes in front of elected officials. It's the new order at DISD, created in the wake of a recent meeting that devolved into a scuffle. Some speakers last night were disgruntled about this arrangement, but generally, they were supportive of the bond proposal. Peter Beck spoke on behalf of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

Peter Beck, Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce: Let me emphasize here that we think the amount that's being discussed here is probably too little for what is actually required, but we realize the political reality and we strongly support the figure you are considering.

Sprague: There has not been a school bond election in Dallas since 1992. Three years ago, trustees killed a $1.2 billion bond proposal amid political turmoil at DISD. But last night, parents, students, and a handful of business leaders seemed to believe the time had come.

Aimee Bolender, President, Alliance AFT: It almost makes me, seriously, get a little teary, because we've needed this bond for so long; and it's clear that we have strong leadership now that's making a huge difference and is going to pay off big not only for the community but also for kids.

Sprague: Aimee Bolender is the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Dallas. She brought photographs from various Dallas public schools to show where improvements are needed.

Bolender: This is a portable building, where our kids go to school. This one is a leaking roof, one of many.

Sprague: More than half of the $1.3 billion proposal would help build 20 new schools, expand 36 existing schools, and partially renovate nearly all the 220 schools in the district. For the owner of a $100,000 home, that would mean a $103 annual tax increase. No one complained about the money last night, but Joe Tave with the NAACP said African-Americans want more than pretty buildings.

Joe Tave, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): The southern sector is not going to just jump into this thing because we're going to get a new facility to keep us from having to drive 20 miles north to a graduation exercise. People are more concerned about their kids, the quality of education that they receive. I don't care how far you have to drive.

Sprague: Other African-American leaders called on trustees to work more on student performance, a pledge Superintendent Mike Moses has made repeatedly during his one year in office. Trustees will pick a bond election day next week. Officials are aiming for January 19th, the day Dallas residents are expected to choose a new mayor. For KERA 90.1, I'm Suzanne Sprague.