Sunday, March 9, 2014

"3 sources say home rule was pitched with Dallas mayor running schools" - Matthew Haag - Dallas Morning News

This following information is a reprint of the full article written by Dallas Morning News staff writer Matthew Haag. The article was published on Saturday, March 8, 2014.

The article shows the real agenda of the backers of Support Our Public Schools, Mayor Mike Rawlings and Trustee Mike Morath.

The agenda is to get voters to give up their right to elect school Trustees in order to create a system giving Mayor Mike Rawlings the right to appoint and control all Dallas ISD school Trustees. 

This will be trading democratic election of school Trustees for undemocratic appointment by a Mayor. 

Just say, "No."

Click Here to see the original article.

3 sources say home rule was pitched with Dallas mayor running schools


Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer
Volunteer Jim Olson gets Lorena Villanueva to sign a petition seeking home-rule of the Dallas Independent School District at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Dallas.
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Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas ISD trustee Mike Morath have denied they’re seeking any specific results in supporting an effort to overhaul the school system.
Yet three people who have been briefed on the initiative said they were told the goals include establishing a different system of governing the district, perhaps under the mayor’s oversight.
Rawlings said in a written statement Friday that he has decided that “proposing a specific change in governance was not the right way to go.”
“I spoke with several leaders about this issue before I endorsed Support Our Public Schools, and a lot of potential changes to the charter were discussed,” he said.
If approved by voters after a successful petition drive, Dallas ISD would move to a home-rule charter that would possibly change how it is governed and operates.
A state law grants home-rule districts more freedom to make decisions, such as modifying the state-mandated curriculum, ignoring teacher labor laws and increasing local control of the district.
The initiative became public a week ago. But in the preceding months, Morath and Rawlings worked privately to build political support for it.
The three people, who agreed to speak to The Dallas Morning News on the condition of anonymity, said that in recent conversations, Morath and Rawlings mentioned replacing the district’s publicly elected board with appointed members.
“It is orchestrated. I hate to see stuff that’s not grass roots being portrayed as it is,” said a former city official whom the mayor recruited unsuccessfully to endorse the effort. “They should be straightforward that they are coming after the trustees.”
The five board members of Support Our Public Schools haven’t publicly criticized the district’s trustees or suggested they be replaced. Those members have instead talked about other possibilities with home rule.
But the former city official said the mayor’s spokesman, Sam Merten, called several weeks ago and spoke bluntly about the effort.
He said that the mayor would run DISD or oversee it. You wouldn’t have trustees. If you did, they wouldn’t be making decisions,” the former official said.
Merten said Friday that he doesn’t recall telling anyone that the mayor would oversee DISD and has only mentioned it as a possibility.
In an interview Friday, Morath said he has “nothing to do with Support Our Public Schools.” But he also called DISD’s board “broken” and said all options for change should be considered.
“We have a system of governance that doesn’t focus its energy or attention or goals on improving outcomes for kids,” he said. “When was the last time the board talked about the achievement gap?”
Meeting with the News editorial board Thursday, an impassioned Rawlings spoke about his dissatisfaction with voter apathy in DISD board elections and the community’s complacency with student achievement.
“An average of a thousand votes per board of trustee? No wonder we are this bad,” the mayor said. “This is a disaster, and for us to sit around and try to argue kind of politics about this is naive and is not going to change things.”
The school charter has never been used in Texas. But if 5 percent of DISD’s registered voters sign a Support Our Public Schools petition, the school board would be required to name 15 people to a commission to write the district’s charter.
The charter then would need approval of local voters and the state education commissioner. The group declined Friday to say how many of the required 24,459 signatures it had collected.
Because district trustees would appoint the commissioners, the process suggests that outside forces couldn’t control the outcome. However, according to the former city official, Merten said the group’s backers had recruited people to be on the commission and believed a majority of DISD trustees would vote them in.
“He said he would propose a slate of people for the charter that they knew would put in place the charter they would want. They would have enough votes on the DISD board to get that passed,” the person said. “You’d have the folks in place already who are committed no matter the public outpouring or opposition.”
Merten denied telling anyone that and said there is not a list of suggested commissioners. “That’s completely inaccurate. There has not been one conversation about who would serve on this potential commission,” he said.
While Rawlings has no current oversight of Dallas ISD, he has long been interested in the district. When he ran for mayor, he made education a top priority. And his biography on the city’s website says he has taken a “hands-on approach” to the schools. Rawlings also suggested Miles’ name to the school board’s superintendent search firm.
A former DISD board member said Rawlings told him that if just two Miles’ supporters left, the majority could swing against the superintendent.
“The mayor pushed back on me and said, ‘What if [trustee] Dan Micciche or [board president] Eric Cowan leaves and suddenly we lose this momentum?’” the former DISD board member said. “That is a valid concern.”
A current city official who spoke to Morath said he mentioned mayoral control of DISD along with a hybrid system of five elected trustees and four appointed. He said Morath wants a system that would grade trustees and allow for their removal, but the trustee didn’t provide specifics.
Support Our Public Schools’ financial supporters include John Arnold, a Hillcrest High School graduate and billionaire Houston philanthropist. Allyn Media, a Dallas public relations firm that assisted Rawlings’ mayoral campaign, is directing Support Our Public Schools’ communication plan.
The former city official said the mayor wanted to recruit 10 influential people who would make the case to the news media and public.
Follow Matthew Haag on Twitter at @matthewhaag.