Monday, November 29, 2010

Dallas ISD Trustees should be more accountable to the public - not less

In 2008, I was re-elected by the good people of District 6 to serve a 3-year term ending in May, 2011. Of course, there was nothing on the ballot for the voters to approve that would allow me to extend my own term.

While it may be tempting to rationalize extending my own term for good reasons, I find it unacceptable to do so in light of personal experience showing how power will be abused.

In 2007, the Texas Education Code stated in plain language that school Trustees could not extend their terms of office after December 31, 2007.  In spite of that clear restriction, on November 20, 2008 - one year after the clearly stated deadline - Dallas ISD Trustees extended their terms and canceled the May 9, 2009 school election.

To listen to the Thursday, November 20, 2008 Board discussion on extending Trustee terms to 4 years (Item #6 under items pulled for a separate vote) , Click Here.

Why Rush To Violate State Law - November 20, 2008

I requested the assistance of the Texas Commissioner of Education in obtaining an opinion of the Attorney General to clarify what had already been confirmed by the Legal Office of the Texas Secretary of State - that the December 31, 2007 deadline applied to all Texas school districts.

After the Texas Attorney General issued an Opinion (GA-0712) on April 30, 2009 that Dallas Trustees had no authority to extend their terms after the clearly stated December 31, 2007 deadline, some Trustees still attempted to minimize the importance of the decision.  The decision was not accepted as simply the "right result" that must be followed.

We have had two elections since the Opinion of the Attorney General was issued - November 3, 2009 and May 8, 2010.  Neither election would have been held without the Attorney General's Opinion upholding the Texas Education Code.  Three new Trustees were elected who would not have been able to run without an election.

This time the deadline is December 31, 2010.  I believe it is sufficient for a Dallas ISD Trustee to serve 3 years.

Dallas ISD Trustee - 3-year term
Dallas City Council - 2-year term with 8-year term limitation
Texas State Representative - 2-year term
U. S. Congress - 2-year term

Dallas  ISD Trustees are already less accountable to the public than the Dallas City Council, Texas State Representatives or members of the U.S. Congress.  In the same 6-year period, these elected officials are accountable to the public in three elections, while Dallas ISD Trustees are currently accountable to the public in only two elections in six years. 

Public service is a privilege given by the citizens who elected us. 

Three-year terms make Trustees more accountable to the public. Four-year terms make Trustees less accountable to the public.  Four-year terms also make change in governance more difficult.  The opportunity for other citizens to serve is also reduced.

A four-year term will give more power to Trustees and less power to the public.

Elections matter and democracy wins when public officials must stand before citizens for re-election.