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DISD Board Cuts Learning Centers, Magnets

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Dallas, TX – For weeks, Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has said $105 million federal dollars are at risk unless over-funded Learning Centers and Magnet schools get fewer dollars. That's because schools receiving Title One money, designated for poor students, must receive largely the same funding per pupil. Hinojosa said the Learning Centers and Magnets were out of compliance.

Dallas Superintendent Hinojosa: If we don't get action on this right now we can guarantee there'll be no layoffs, if we get support from the board and make this happen now. If not, if we submit this in September, all guarantees are off and we have to be in compliance otherwise we'll forfeit over a hundred million dollars in federal funds.

But over the past few weeks, what the federal government and Texas Education Agency said was necessary to be equitable, changed. That led parents and students to question and challenge district administrators. Dozens of them, like Talented and Gifted Senior Rebecca Simpson, spoke out against any funding cuts during the meeting.

Rebecca Simpson, Senior, TAG: The issue of staffing cuts has been presented as one of fairness. Is it fair that one school receives more fuding than the other. But this is not the issue. the issue is one of necessity. Is it necessary to decimate some of the best schools in the district for little or no cause. The answer is no. if it were yes, there would be a cause.

Many said if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Parent Margaret Demopulos has a child in Spence academy. She said it stands to lose 25 percent of its staff.

Margaret Demopulos: For any school under any circumstances to lose 25 percent of their teachers is a disaster. But for it to happen needlessly when it can be avoided is a disgrace. Even more disgraceful is the attempt to pit schools against each other, implying that the Magnet schools and Learning Centers are stealing from the other schools.

Board member Ron Price argued that despite what DISD's attorney told them, he had consulted with other lawyers. They assured him Magnets and Learning Centers COULD keep their funding if the district requested it. Price wanted to postpone the vote. Trustee Carla Ranger did too. She said de-funding these schools violates the Covenants and Commitments agreed to after the district was released from the decades-long desegregation order. That's because those schools were created in part as solutions to unconstitutional segregation the district was guilty of back in the 70s. For years, they've received extra money. To change these Covenants and Commitments requires a supermajority of trustees. Ranger said changes create problems.

Trustee Carla Ranger; This is a conflict between this mandate and our agreement with the federal court.

And as such, she explained, a supermajority 7 to 2 board vote is required to change it. But the Dallas school attorney countered the Covenants and Commitments is no longer binding, because there's no longer federal court oversight of DISD. So the vote on cuts at Learning Centers and Magnet schools finally occurred at about 1:15 this morning, more than 8 hours into the meeting.

Trustee Jerome Garza: Call the question. Voting. Let's vote. The motion passes 5 voting for, 4 voting no.

Ranger: Point of order point of order. In order to change any of the Learning Centers you have to have 7 people voting. Yes you do. That motion fails.

But DISD's attorney Jack Elrod said Ranger was wrong and the simple majority was adequate. The board moved on to it's next agenda item. Trustees also chose new leaders. Adam Medrano was elected as the new board president. The first Vice President is Lew Blackburn. Carla Ranger was elected 2nd Vice President.

Email Bill Zeeble