The Miseducation of Dallas County: Episode One

Episode One of The Miseducation of Dallas County podcast explores the “morbid fear of taxation” in the 1870s regarding education, and the similar opposition to raising taxes today. This episode’s historical content is heavily indebted to the work of historian Jackie McElhaney. She has a book titled Pauline Periwinkle about the fight for women’s suffrage in Dallas. This podcast is dedicated to educators everywhere. The future is in your hands. Don't Want to Listen? Read the Full Podcast Below: August 18th, 2017. Rob: It was definitely a day of anticipation. Waiting for that meeting to start, wondering how many members of the community would show up to a Friday night school board meeting. And then wondering if we were gonna be successful in this almost seven month effort to help get more money for the 158 thousand students of Dallas Independent School District. This is Rob Shearer. Rob: I am the director of communications and marketing at The Commit Partnership. And for over a half a year, he’d been working on a campaign to attempt the unthinkable: raise taxes in a Texas city. Rob: The data was pretty clear that this could make a really big difference in a district that is already pretty cash strapped. Spending more to get better quality absolutely ends up positively impacting students and their lives. So Rob and Commit joined a growing group of community advocates, who called themselves Strong Schools Strong Dallas, who were fighting for a Tax Ratification Election, or TRE, a ballot measure to be voted on by residents of the district for an increase in their property tax rate. Which, you might be surprised to learn, was supported by more than just data. Rob: The surveys from the community have convinced us, the calls from the community have convinced us, the meetings with the community have convinced us. It’s an important aspect of the work Commit does. They seek to leverage both quantitative data and qualitative community expertise to provide a complete picture of the school systems they study. And picture was clear: Dallas ISD’s budget, even at over a billion dollars, simply isn’t enough to meet all of its student’s needs. Rob: To the untrained ear, you hear billion-dollar budget, and you think Scrooge McDuck rolling around on his back in the cash. But the reality is when you divide that billion by 158,000 students, the amount per student is significantly lower than the national average. And given where our students are coming from, given the rates of poverty, given the percentage of students that are learning English as a second language, it is completely naïve to think that Dallas ISD can spend the exact same amount per student as more affluent districts and expect the same outcomes. And that is not because of a deficiency of our students, or a problem with our teachers, it is just the reality of it not being a level playing field. The school district itself recognizes this disparity. The [...]