Last year some supporters of the charter school movement in Texas embarked on their most ambitious effort yet, seeking to transform the Dallas public school system, the state’s second-largest, into a home-rule district.
Meeting that goal would mean all 220 DISD campuses would be charter schools, with a new administrative structure basically free of many state laws that govern traditional public schools.
Under a 1995 state law permitting creation of home-rule districts, a grassroots organization called Support Our Public Schools initiated the required petition process and quickly secured almost twice the 25,000 signatures needed to force the board of trustees to name a commission to draw up a charter.
The movement seemed to be on a fast track, despite early opposition, and for a while it appeared DISD would be headed toward an election on the issue once the 15-member commission had submitted a home-rule charter.
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This week that commission applied the brakes to the proposal, voting 10-5 not to write a charter, according to The Dallas Morning News.
That decision ends what has been a very divisive issue in the Dallas district. DISD has been plagued for years with infighting and community unrest.
Had the home-rule proposal proceeded to a districtwide vote, dissension would have continued, although many predicted the proposal would have failed.
State law requires that the charter election must have the approval of 25 percent of the district’s registered voters. The Morning News points out that trustee elections normally draw between 5 percent and 10 percent of voters.
The commission, which did considerable work and held numerous public hearings, plans to continue working and make recommendations to the DISD board.
That means the process may turn out to be a productive one for a district and its more than 157,000 students. DISD needs all the help it can get.
Some charter supporters are vowing to return to the Legislature for amendments to the law making it easier to create home-rule districts.
Voters must still decide how their schools are governed.