While the passing of charter partnerships in Dallas ISD is a huge disappointment, the January and February Board meetings and briefings underscore just how essential elected, transparent representation is to the taxpayers of any community.
At the Board meeting last Thursday Derek Little, Assistant Superintendent for Early Learning, was asked by Trustee Pinkerton about his prior SB 1882 presentations to the Board and the community, "Did you not understand what was in the contracts or were you misrepresenting the facts?" Mr. Little responded by stating he felt he accurately represented the intent of the District. She then turned to the Superintendent and stated, "Dr. Hinojosa, let me just say that the Board relies on you to make sure that your staff knows and understands what's in the contract and that the contracts are clear and actually do accurately represent any statements that are being made to the public."
There were some glaring omissions and contradictions between the proposed policy, contracts, and the law, and Mr. Little's presentations to the Board and community were misleading. Trustee Pinkerton pointed out specific issues two weeks prior at the briefing, the District finally capitulated and adjusted the contract language to ensure the following:
A DISD certified teacher is present in each classroom of a charter partner
A full day pre-K 4 program will be provided
The District will retain the necessary funding required for the educational and support services the District is required to provide.
Trustee Pinkerton continued to remind the District that while updating these contracts with fundamental safeguards is important, these changes should be part of the policy, which they are not. Another highly concerning policy misstep discussed by Trustee Pinkerton was the fact that the pre-K policy only applied to applications for SB 1882 partnerships, while pre-K contracts allowed for the expansion of grade levels with District (not Board) approval. In order to ensure the District will have to seek Board approval before adding grade levels, Trustee Pinkerton pressed for an on the spot policy change which was approved and now reads:
The District will establish pre-kindergarten partnerships only.
Trustee Foreman pointed out that two of the partnership programs Mi Escuelita and ChildCareGroup are feeder programs for Uplift Charter Schools and Mr. Little confirmed that 48% of the students DISD subsidizes for pre-K do not enter Dallas ISD.
The proposed contract for Heavenly Learning Center, which is within Richardson ISD boundaries, was pulled from a vote to allow the attorneys time to review the legalities for partnering with an entity outside DISD boundaries. That left nine total partnership charter contracts approved.
Mr. Little confirmed for Trustee Blackburn that the charter partnerships are not increasing student enrollment and that at several of the partnership locations there is no physical capacity to do so.
Having state funding to support ISDs and only releasing it when funneled to a private operating partner is shameful. Equally shameful is this District's willingness to go along. Critical duties such as instructional programming and budgeting will now be governed by non-elected, private boards overseeing private operating partners.
I am grateful for the keen analysis provided by Trustees Blackburn, Foreman, and Pinkerton and for the significant contractural and policy changes they were able to implement. Their work epitomizes the very purpose of Board oversight which ironically this policy weakens.
FOR PARTNERSHIP CHARTERS