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State Watching DISD

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By Shelley Kofler, KERA News Director

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-768837.mp3

Dallas, TX – Yesterday, while Dallas School board members grilled the superintendent about minimizing teacher layoffs, members of the Texas Education Association were watching an online broadcast. KERA's Shelley Kofler has more on why state regulators and elected officials are getting involved.

The Texas Education Agency, the TEA, monitors school district compliance with state regulations, and is considering whether it needs to step in and take control of Dallas school spending.

District spokesman John Dahlander says DISD is in constant communication with the TEA and hopes to avoid the take over.

Dahlander: A conservator from TEA would have final authority over any kind of financial decisions regarding the district. Basically he would hold the trump card over the superintendent and the board as well.

In addition to an audit that revealed poor DISD money management, and deficits both this year and last, the TEA's annual report card for fiscal compliance, the first report, rated DISD as failing.

State Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano chairs the Senate education committee.

Shapiro: They need professional help in their financial mismanagement problems.

Whether it's a TEA conservator or a turn-around specialist from private industry, Shapiro believes DISD needs outside expertise to untangle its financial mess.

She says the Dallas fiasco, resulting in hundreds of teacher layoffs, is a sign state oversight is weak.

Shapiro: I think we need to strengthen our financial accountability system in Texas, and I'm going to be working to that end. There are several different types of reporting that would bring this to the forefront earlier.

DISD's Dahlander says the district takes the state's role seriously, and says school officials will probably travel to Austin soon for a face-to -face meeting with the TEA.