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
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
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:
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.
Routes to School:
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
$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
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.
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.
(NBC5i.com, 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
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
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..