DISD home-rule signatures submitted; opposition fires up




Posted on May 15, 2014 at 6:13 PM

Updated Thursday, May 15 at 9:19 PM

DALLAS -- The Support Our Public Schools movement in Dallas says it has met its goal of raising the signatures needed to begin creating a home-rule charter for the Dallas School District.

The plan could change the structure of the board as we know it, bring changes to the curriculum, and allow the district to separate from state oversight. 

It’s just the first step in a complicated process that could end with a vote in November. The home rule signature gathering campaign came to an end at DISD headquarters with the delivery of three boxes of petitions, more than 48,000 names gathered over the past two months.

The supporting organization, Support Our Public Schools, declined an on-camera interview but issued a victory declaration. 

"We are heartened by the vast community support for this bold approach to improving our schools and we are proud that these signatures represent every corner of Dallas ISD, with more than 50 percent of the signatures coming from citizens in Southern Dallas." 

But the gathering of the signatures is only the start of what will be a daunting task. Up next, the verification of 25,000 of signatures within five days, the appointment of a 15-member committee to craft a new DISD constitution in 30 days, and the actual creating of that constitution by mid-August.

Bill Betzen of the group 'Our Community, Our Schools' is one of home-rule movement’s biggest critics.

"We are looking at a set of policies that has evolved over decades -- decades. And now we are wanting to re-write it in a couple of months,” said Betzen. “Something's amiss." 

If a new, local rule education charter is written by mid-August, more than 25 percent of registered voters in the district would have to participate in the final vote in November. 

DISD Board President Eric Cowan says he's skeptical such a short time table is realistic. 

"It's going to be tough, it's going to be tough,” said Cowan. “That's going to depend on the commission as to whether they are going to be able to present a charter they feel comfortable with." 

And while the certification of signatures is a five-day process, opponents are ready to file protests.

They will argue that the petition gatherers did not follow the proper procedure, nullifying most of the signatures. If they lose that fight, there will no doubt be other challenges. Many believe the home-rule fight is just beginning.

E-mail: bshipp@wfaa.com