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Activists Rally Against Home-Rule Effort In Dallas Schools

Bill Zeeble
Former Dallas City Council member Diane Ragsdale at lecturn speaking against the home-rule effort. She's surrounded by like-minded community activists in front of the Dallas Schools administration building

Thirty community activists and teacher representatives rallied against the home-rule effort, which could change the way Dallas schools are run. Opponents to a new charter -- freed from some state rules -- could violate rules of democracy.

The broad based coalition of home-rule opponents expressed themselves clearly.

“We know that it’s March and there’s madness in the air, right?” Hector Flores asked. “We’re not talking about basketball but about recent conversations, the meetings and articles concerning home-rule charter effort.”

Hector Flores represents Dallas Latino school administrators and for a long time has been a respected Hispanic leader. Seventy percent of Dallas students are Hispanic.

“DISD schools are not dark and hopeless as has been said,” Flores continued. “They are filled with bright ideas, learning and achievement and hard-working DISD employees who are there to insure success for the light of our lives -- the students.”

Former Dallas City Council member Diane Ragsdale also spoke against home rule. As an elected official, she fought for single member districts which improved minority representation in City Hall.

“A  governing board that is appointed or anointed flies in the face of our struggle for single-member districts," Ragsdale said. "Such a board violates one person one vote.”

Under a home-rule charter, elected school trustees could be appointed, not elected as they are now. But Jeronimo Valdez says that would be up to a 15-member commission, chosen by board members. And if they want an elected board, they’ll keep it. Valdez sits on the board of Support Our Public Schools, which backs the home-rule push. Valdez also rejected arguments from teacher groups accusing home-rule backers of ignorance when it comes to education.

“I understand some folks to who did the press conference today are current or former DISD teachers,” Valdez said. “Bottom line is they’re the backbone of our schools and are critical to the education of our kids. I frankly think they’re a small group of DISD employees and teachers who oppose the home-rule for no other reason than they have fear and somehow they believe our schools don’t need improvement.”

Valdez says no matter what school gains may be achieved now, more could be accomplished under home rule when the district is freed from some state regulations. The home-rule group is trying to gather 5,000 voter signatures in the first step to getting home rule on the November ballot. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.