TEA Commissioner to DISD: Comply or lose funds.




Posted on February 6, 2012 at 11:00 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 6 at 11:17 PM

DALLAS — The head of the Texas Education Agency may have reached his limit with the Dallas Independent School District.

In a sternly-worded letter to district officials, Commissioner Robert Scott lays it out: Either comply with federal education laws or risk losing millions of dollars in federal grants.

Scott's letter, dated January 13, 2012, minces no words: "It has come to our attention that DISD is not complying with requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act."

Specifically, the district is accused of failing to provide supplemental education services to students attending "at-risk schools."

Of the "29,349 students eligible ... only 40 students have received tutoring services to date," Scott's letter charges, adding: "...the agency is gravely concerned about DISD's failure to comply with the SES [supplemental educational services] requirements."

Scott said TEA is prepared to "withhold cash payments," and said the district's inaction "could jeopardize DISD's ability to receive nearly $80 million in Title I federal funds."

DISD interim Superintendent Alan King refused an on-camera interview, but responded by e-mail.

"Dallas ISD has been working with the Texas Education Agency since early October to address issues with SES providers. There have been numerous discussions over the phone, and one trip to Austin to discuss the possible resolution of this issue with the agency. We have addressed each of the concerns in the commissioner's letter."

DISD watchdog Allen Gwinn, who also operates the Web site Dallas.org, hopes the commissioner's critical correspondence will open the city's eyes to the dysfunction within the state's second largest school district.

"I think there are a number of people who are very, very frustrated with it right now," Gwinn said. "I think the fact that Robert Scott has gotten frustrated is something he should have done five or six years ago."

The Scott letter references a legacy of failures at DISD, including "several audits and investigations" and findings of "inadequate fiscal controls over Title I funds."

In conclusion, Scott said he "...takes very seriously the failure of the district to comply with federal requirements."

Gwinn feels this is a sobering message from the top education official in Texas, and said it should be taken seriously.

"I'm hoping that this is a day of reckoning for DISD, and finally someone will come in and force a change in that culture," Gwinn said.

The only response we received from the DISD Board of Trustees was from Mike Morath. He said the reason the district wasn't spending the money was because only two tutoring companies in the city are reputable.

News 8 has also learned of the resignation of yet another top DISD official on Monday, the second in as many days.

That's now at least nine top-level administrators who have departed the district in less than six months.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com