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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Common Core Loophole in Texas Home Rule / Local Rule Legislation

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D.  |  April 2, 2015  Education Views

A home-rule initiative to convert the entire Dallas ISD into a charter school district was launched in 2014 with support from powerful politicians and wealthy backers.  But the public did not buy the idea.  Even Bob Weiss, chairman of the home-rule commission charged with preparing a charter, opposed home rule because he said it would “…undermine people’s democratic rights.”

In the end, the commission decided not to write a charter.  Even if they had, there was no guarantee that it would have gone into effect since the 1995 state law requires voter approval in an election in which 25 percent of Dallas ISD’s registered voters participate.  Dallas ISD trustee elections draw between 5 percent and 10 percent voter turnout. 

As a charter district, the elected DISD Board of Trustees would be replaced with an appointed board to be controlled by the mayor. Mayor Rawlings has said publicly that he supports replacing the elected school board with appointed members.

The Dallas community is strongly opposed to losing their local control of education.  If Dallas ISD is converted to a charter district, it will not be directly accountable to parents or taxpayers.

The community is also concerned about the intent of wealthy backers which include John and Laura Arnold. 

The community is also concerned about the intent of wealthy backers which include John and Laura Arnold, Harlan Crowe, and Garrett Boone.  Arnold, a hedge fund manager who lives outside of DISD, has publicly stated that he thinks public education should be taken over by private corporations.

A movement is sweeping across the nation with for-profit corporations privatizing public education. Hedge funds receive major tax credit benefits for their investments.  Dallas ISD, with its more than $1 billion budget, is especially appealing to hedge funds. 

The home-rule initiative failed due to lack of popular support in Dallas.

But supporters have not stopped with their plans to overhaul Dallas ISD.  In the 84th Legislative session Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has filed HB 2579 with proposals that mirror those advocated by home-rule supporters.  

Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, has filed a local control school district bill, SB1012.  The term “home rule school district charter” is replaced with “local control school district.”

In D Magazine Rep. Anchia stated that HB 2579 applies only to Dallas ISD because it specifies school districts larger than 125,000 students and smaller than 200,000 students.  Following are bill highlights:

  • add student trustee to DISD school board;
  • implement strict rules governing a redistricting commission for DISD;
  • salary for trustees equal to the median income of district teachers;
  • change terms of office from three years to four years;
  • hold elections in November instead of May;
  • change the beginning of the school year to a date before the fourth Monday in August; and
  • require a 2/3 super majority rather than a simple majority to fire the superintendent. 

Dallas voters will have to approve the changes. 

A major concern about Home Rule/Local Rule is what is believed to be a loophole regarding whether Common Core can be offered, even though Common Core is prohibited in Texas under House Bill 462 passed by the 83rd Legislature.  The bill states that, "(b-4) AA Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, a school district or open-enrollment charter school may not be required to offer any aspect of a common core state standards curriculum."

The regulatory requirements of House Bill 462 are listed on the Texas Education Agencywebsite in a statement by Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams.

House Bill 462 does not specifically address a Home Rule Charter School District (HRCD), which is not considered to be an independent school district (ISD) or an open-enrollment charter school. 

Since HB 462 does not specifically prohibit Common Core in an HRCD, there is the possibility that Common Core can be offered in an HRCD.  Even if the wording “Home Rule Charter District” is changed to “Local Control District,” the issue of whether Common Core can be offered in either is still not addressed in HB 462.

It is critical that 84th Session legislators add clarification to HB 462 regarding the offering of Common Core in home rule and/or  local rule school districts.

Copyright ©2015 Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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