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DISD's Double Dipping

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Betty Culbreath
James Northrup


8/21/7  City Budget includes Millions to do DISD's Job!.

If you are happy with the fact that your DISD taxes are 51% higher than your City of Dallas taxes, you probably will be very happy to read page 24 of the "City of Dallas Budgeting for Outcomes"  and learn that Dallas taxpayers may soon be funding 3 programs that should be handled by the DISD.  

In Education we are buying:
 Dallas Arts Learning Initiative (DALI)
    Partnership with DISD, Big Thought and local cultural organizations to coordinate and leverage high-quality arts learning experiences for Dallas children and families
Every Child Ready to Read @ Dallas Program
Safe Routes to School Program to proactively provide transportation infrastructure and safety education to school children
  Position to design and implement program

In a second budget town hall handout called "Executive Summary" on pages 19-20, we get the following explanation:

Recognizing that Dallas' future depends on the quality of education in our communities, the City of Dallas is pursuing relationships with educational institutions to promote advancement in education.  We want to do everything in our power to ensure the City's workforce is educated and sustainable.
Dallas Arts Learning Initiative:
To that end, the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Dallas Public Library are partners in the Dallas Arts Learning Initiative (DALI), a groundbreaking public/private partnership with the City of Dallas, Dallas Independent School District, Big Thought and local cultural organizations.  DALI, funded in part by a three year, $8M grant from the Wallace Foundation and matching funds from the City, is designed to coordinate and leverage high-quality  arts learning experiences for Dallas children and families in school and neighborhood locations.  A new component of DALI is the Every Child Ready to Read @ Dallas, an early literacy program that focuses on the six pre-reading skills that children must develop in order to read, using multiple art forms to enhance these skills.  Early reading experiences are now recognized as being so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "pediatricians prescribe reading activities along with other instructions given to parents at the time of well-child visits."  This program will reach 10,000 children and caregivers during the first 12 months.  National research demonstrates in order for public education, public safety, or quality of life to be sustainable, you have to have a literate, engaged society.  Libraries play a large role in producing that society and by stimulating learning from toddler to adulthood.
Safe Routes to School:
The Safe Routes to School Program is a national program adopted by the 2005 Transportation Bill to proactively provide transportation infrastructure and safety education to school children.  The proposed budget recommends partial funding for a position that would coordinate support and resources from traffic engineers, police, and school administrators to develop walking route plans, implement road safety improvements along those routes and create pedestrian safety education programs for schools in the Dallas Independent School District.

$8M grant?  Matching funds from the City, as in $8M?  Well, no.  I also assumed that, but the City's matching funds are only $600,000.  Not that $600K is something to sneeze at.  It would fund at least a dozen new police officers (including their signup bonuses).  Regardless of the source, spending $8,600,000 for an arts appreciation program still seems excessive when we pay so much in DISD school taxes

I'm told the Wallace Foundation gave $1M each to New York City and to Dallas for a "planning grant".  When the planning grant was completed, Dallas got the $8M grant and NYC did not.  That's pretty cool, but it still bothers me that City Hall is in the education business when we pay so much in DISD school taxes.  Besides, NYC runs its own school system.  The City of Dallas does not.  The DISD includes non-Dallas municipalities in its boundaries.  There is even a section of the Park Cities included in the DISD.  Their school taxes are higher than the taxes paid by homeowners on nearby streets that are in the Highland Park School District, where kids get great educations.  Not only do DISD taxpayers in that afflicted part of Highland Park pay higher taxes, their homes are not nearly as marketable as their non-DISD neighbors.

Things are obviously different in today's education systems, but my schools had art and music classes.  Why aren't DISD schools already teaching students art appreciation?   Why is a cash strapped City Hall duplicating programs that should be offered by the DISD?  If we make our recreation centers and libraries available for education programs, why isn't the DISD reimbursing us for the $600K we are spending to match the Wallace Foundation's $8M grant?

Having the city run a pre-school program to prepare children for learning is like having a football coach teach a pre-med class in college.  Granted, the coach may be pretty knowledgeable about anatomy and injuries and even treatment, but there's a lot more to medicine than sports inujries.  It may not matter to you, but I like things compartmentalized.  I want doctors teaching future doctors.  I want coaches teaching football players.  I want school teachers educating children in school buildings.

With the kind of people who hang out in some of our libraries, I am not sure most parents would want their child attending any program there without parental accompaniment.  I have the same concerns about children at recreation centers without their parent along.  In Arcadia Park, the new elementary school has a city operated library attached to it.  When I first heard about it, my feelings were totally positive since it saved tax dollars and resources.  A smart friend of mine who has lived in England says they have learned sharing school campuses with the public is not such a smart idea after all.  It turns out pedophiles see the school/public facilities as a perfect place to prey on youngsters.

There's a new middle school going up just South of my neighborhood.  We have heard the athletic facilities will double as a city recreation center in the evening.  I am not at all happy with that arrangement.  The school is going to be built near several problematic apartment complexes.  That's sort of redundant, "problematic apartment complexes".  There aren't many multi-family projects over 10 years old that are not problematic.  In the several of the apartments just South of my neighborhood, there are gangs and car thefts and drug dealing.  A recreation center built convenient to them and blocks south of any single family homes will be very enticing to the bad guys from the get go.

Times have changed.  Just last year, August of 2006, a Parks and Recreation manager was shot four times in the Pleasant Oaks Recreation Center.  See
Woman Shot Four Times In Rec Center Robbery.   (, 8/1/06).  I talked to a retired Rec Center Manager, who managed centers in Pleasant Grove, Oak Cliff and the Walnut Hill Rec Center.  He said there were problems at the Pleasant Grove and Oak Cliff Rec Centers where police had to be called, but not at the Walnut Hill Rec Center.  Imagine that!  The Walnut Hill Rec Center is on the corner of Midway and Walnut Hill, sharing the intersection with St. Michael's Catholic Church and an elementary school.  It is surrounded by affluent single-family neighborhoods. 

I then talked to retired Senior Park Planner Darryl Baker to see if I was completely off base in my concerns about the city partnering with the DISD on education issues.  Darryl said "It's not our mission."  He says the city has gotten involved in so many programs over the years with good intent, but with bad results.  He said, "The city has been neglectful when it comes to maintenance."  He also says the DISD has not been a good partner in current and past arrangements between City Hall and DISD.  Again, imagine that! 

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Keywords: boats, cruise ships, disasters ...
File Size: 13 KB   Pairing up with the DISD is like hooking your lifeboat to the Titantic.

In the first place, who decides which 10,000 children will be in the program?  We already have heard about children turned away from pre-K because their parents are not minorities or indigent or even non-citizens. 

Who screens the "caregivers" in the program?  Can you imagine the opportunity for pedophiles?

I am comforted to learn Dallas taxpayers are not matching the Wallace Foundation grant with an $8M contribution, even though $600K is a lot of money.  That still does not answer my questions about figures that appear in the "Recommended Budget - By Key Focus Area".  Under Operating Budget ($1.922 Billion), $31M is designated for "Education".  Under Capital Budget ($729 Million), $12M is designated for "Education". 

I sat through two budget town hall meetings.  Councilman Salazar's meeting at Bachman Lake Rec Center was small enough that we could ask several questions.  Asst. City Mgr. Ramon Miguez made a great presentation, but it was still the power point propaganda that city staff has to give at all budget town hall meetings.  The second budget town hall meeting was Councilman Rasansky's at Walnut Hill Rec Center.  Because there were over 200 people attending, questions/comments were held to one per speaker.  To make matters worse, Mayor Leppert was not listening to the comments as he held private meetings in the back of the gym while citizens were stating their concerns at the front.  There were so many conversations going on between staff and various groups that it was increasingly hard to even hear the citizens at the microphone.

I'm still sold on Mayor Leppert, but last Tuesday night in North Dallas was not one of his finest hours.  His political speech to support the Trinity Project in November fell on deaf ears.  He really needs to know his audiences better, which he will learn with more time in office.  With former Mayor Adeline Harrison and former Councilwoman Donna Blumer strongly supporting the referendum and opposing the Trinity Project sitting in the audience, a more experienced politician would have kept his powder dry for that particular group.  Several people sitting around me were very annoyed with his inappropriate comments at a budget town hall meeting.

It all comes back to basics at City Hall, which is the last concern of most elected city officials or city employees.  It is the first concern of most Dallas residents and taxpayers.  Fix our streets before you build a stupid toll road in a sewer trough.  Get our current parks and recreation centers in exemplary condition (not just adequate) before you build a park on a lid over a freeway Downtown.  Stop duplicating services that are the responsibility of other taxing authorities.

The City of Dallas already duplicates social services and health services that are the legislated responsibility of Dallas County government.  That causes Dallas taxpayers to pay more than our share of services that all Dallas County residents should be funding.

Dallas taxpayers already pay for educating kids in Wilmer-Hutchins.  We should not have to pay for arts and music education programs in our recreation centers.  It may be a noble idea, but as Darryl Baker says so succinctly, "It is not our mission."

The DISD does not educate our children.  A large percentage of the DISD student population are immigrants, legal and illegal.  Each year, fewer and fewer White kids attend DISD schools.  Each year, middle class and affluent Black families pull their kids out of DISD schools.  There is one scandal after another related to DISD operations and failures.  We should not reward their mismanagement with hitting Dallas taxpayers twice for the expense of educating Dallas children. 

It would be interesting to learn how many Dallas homeowners have no children in the DISD system.  I wouldn't be surprised if it is over 60%, but we will never know because those with the information are not likely to share it with those who pay the bills.

When someone can adequately explain why the city is spending $43 million on "education" in the FY 2007-08 Annual Budget, I might feel differently.  At this point, it just looks like the DISD is double dipping on Dallas taxpayers..






  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8