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Controversy surrounds proposed Dallas home-rule

Outside group proposes DISD break from state governance
Outside group proposes DISD break from state governance
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For the past two months, the Dallas Independent School District has been concerned with what has become known locally as the Home-Rule Initiative, the campaign to change the DISD into an independent charter-run district. Since its inception, the controversy surrounding it has only intensified. Friday, May 23, local ABC News affiliate, WFAA, reported that current Dallas residents' reception of this proposed change is mixed and equally divided. Nonetheless, according to a News 8 report on Friday, despite the alleged deceptive petition-gathering practices of proponents for home-rule, members of the Dallas ISD board certified the signatures needed to begin the process of installing the new school district constitution, pending voting outcome later in the year. CBS News posited that the plan “has cleared its latest hurdle.”

During the board's monthly meeting on Thursday night, May 22, board trustees reviewed and approved signatures for the proposal to turn DISD into a locally-governed home-rule charter district. The campaign, backed by “nameless financial backers to remove DISD from state government,” according to WFAA on Thursday's 10 p.m. news telecast, started off quietly, but gained rumored notoriety which the head of the campaign attempted to renounce at the board meeting Thursday evening. Jeronimo Valdez of Support Our Public Schools told the board Thursday, “While there may be talk of some nefarious scheme that we're billionaires with a hostile take-over, it couldn't be further from the truth.” He asserted in an effort to explain why he and other supporters like himself with non-parental ties to the district were financially supporting the controversial campaign, “We're all DISD grads that want to see it improve.” However, the chief backers of Support Our Public Schools have kept their identities and details of their financial support secret.

On the opposite side of the controversy, opponents accused the campaign of tricking citizens into signing the petition, calling home-rule “a Trojan horse for adults out to restructure the board.” They protested, “Don't be fooled by Home Rule!” Harryette Ehrhardt, representing Our Community, Our Schools in direct opposition to Support Our Public Schools, cautioned the board on Thursday, “We believe you should take a deep breath, and consider what is being uncovered daily about how the petitions were gathered.” Ironically, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who had so steadfastly supported DISD Superintendent Mike Miles in the past, appears to presently favor SOPS and home-rule.

Valdez has repeatedly declined offers to interview with news media and has refused to go on record or answer any questions concerning SOPS posed by the media. DISD and board trustees have 30 days to appoint a group comprised of 15 parents and teachers to a commission to structure a new constitution for the school district, with the goal to get it on the ballot in November.