DALLAS-- The clock is ticking for the home-rule initiative.
The process to change the Dallas School District to a locally governed charter school district is officially underway.
But first those petitions have to be certified and problems may already be surfacing. For the next five days inside DISD headquarters, district employees will inspect an estimated 48,000 signatures, trying to verify that about 25,000 of them are legitimate.
If so, the movement to shift DISD from state to a local and independent form of governance could proceed.
'They are going through the petitions, verifying the petitions were properly executed with names, date of birth and a signature,' said Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole.
And while the signatures may be valid, home-rule opponents are planning an attack -- hoping to challenge the method in which the signatures were acquired.
'If you look right at the top of the petition, this statement must be read to each person before signing the petition,' said Bill Betzen, a vocal opponent of the home-rule initiative.
Betzen says petition gatherers violated the governing instructions, requiring the petition gatherers to read out loud the following phrase: 'I know the purpose of this petition is to request the Board of Trustees of DISD appoint a Charter Commission to frame a home-rule school district charter for Dallas ISD.'
Does Betzen think that the practice of not reading that phrase to those signing the petition was wide-spread?
'I virtually know it was a wide-spread practice,' said Betzen.
And Betzen says that, in turn, renders many, if not most of the petitions invalid. Now he's calling on the district to investigate.
'We want them to do a random sample of however many thousand petitions are ultimately verified, and in that random sample, contact those people and ask them what procedure was followed,' said Betzen.
Home-rule organizers, Support Our Public Schools, has not responded to our requests for comment. But in a statement provided Thursday, organizers made it clear the overhaul of education in Dallas should move forward.
'We hope that our school board, the charter commission, parents and the citizens of Dallas ISD grasp this unprecedented opportunity to make DISD truly independent.'