While Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams seems to think state accountability systems should hold school districts accountable for the achievement gap between Anglo and minority school children, the Commissioner first needs to actively assess the illegal opportunity gaps operating in Dallas ISD.
Superintendent Mike Miles seems to have intentionally embedded a series of huge opportunity gaps into the working budget of the Dallas ISD. These embedded opportunity gaps in the working budget (as opposed to the budget offered board members) are tied to several hidden, strategic moves on the part of the Miles’ administration. The strategic moves are aligned with the goals of the Gates Foundation, Teach for America, the Walton Foundation, Eli Broad, Todd Williams, and several education PACS such as Michelle Rhee’s Students First. These PACS are funded by billionaire and millionaire donors who have displaced local and state constituents and their representatives in making education policy in this country. Arne Duncan bows before them as does Mike Miles. Rhee, Gates, and Broad have never been elected to office, but their wishes, far divorced from the best interests of students and communities, taint every urban education policy decision from local board decisions to funding from the federal Education Department.
Miles’ allegiance to this billionaires’ club was obvious in his political grandstanding weeks ago in Colorado as Miles the politician visited his actual constituency and made derogatory remarks about the district whose taxpayers and their elected officials sign his present check. Miles has no loyalty to the students or parents in Dallas schools. They are pawns manipulated in a scheme for Miles’ ascendancy to a position at the White House, an ascendency greased by Miles pushing the billionaires’ education agenda.
Miles’ operating budget for Dallas ISD is tainted by these ambitions. Instead of hiring the teachers promised as part of Dallas ISD’s Title I comparability plan for federal compliance, more teaching vacancies than Dallas schools have ever encountered became the norm this year. These hundreds of teaching vacancies haven’t had the free market effect of raising salaries or stipends for recruiting Dallas teachers. The reverse is true. Due to the manipulations of Todd Williams and others, starting pay for Dallas teachers is now far below bordering suburbs. Stipends for math and science and special education teachers are gone, unlike bordering districts who still recruit with pay differentials.
Dallas taxpayers are now at a complete disadvantage in recruiting teaching talent for their kids. Lowered compensation, derogatory board comments before state Senators regarding Dallas teachers, campuses robbed of supplies, and layers of micromanagers make recruiting and retaining teacher talent difficult for Dallas.
What Miles and cronies offer for empty classrooms are draconian, false choices. Either substitute teachers or Teach for America novices, mostly without college majors in the content they will teach after a few weeks of training, are the binary choices offered taxpayers. Either hundreds of permanent substitutes or uncertified TFA grads that may have no or few college hours in the secondary subjects they are assigned to teach make up the Glover menu. Charles Glover, having no network or contacts outside TFA, provides a false solution for his lack of competency—a constant stream of TFA churn whose actual federal, philanthropic, and district stipends cost of $80,000 per uncertified novice with no return on investment. This TFA solution is pushed while Dallas ISD refuses to offer stipends of $5,000-$10,000 per qualified math or science teacher, a far cheaper solution in the long run.
This scarcity of good teachers isn’t a market scarcity. This is a setup to feed TFA and the billionaire’s club. Leaving Dallas classrooms empty with the excuse that TFA is the only answer builds political capital for Miles, and other than pure greed, building that capital with the Gates’ cabal seems to be Miles’ only motivation in coming to Dallas.
One motivating factor in the last DISD CFO making a run back to Garland ISD might be the fact TEAM Miles intends to leave classrooms empty again next year or he intends to jack up the teacher student ratio in high schools even higher by eliminating classroom positions to create funding for a couple of feeder patterns at the expense of the rest of the district. Or it may have become apparent to the CFO that the working budget Miles intended to use in 2013-2014 was illegal in that it proposed Title I compliance when there was no intention of hiring teachers to meet federal guidelines.
We suggest a hard stop for Miles’ ambitions built on the backs of kids and their teachers.
Title I comparability defined by adding teachers, instead of dollars, to campuses with critical masses of poor kids doesn’t offer the option of merely putting in false positions that were never intended to be filled. Constitutional guarantees of equal access don’t allow the poorest Dallas high schools to have double digit teacher vacancies while our high schools with the least amount of poverty don’t have core positions staffed with permanent substitutes.
We are quite certain the feds can follow the breadcrumbs. If the bucket holding the money for permanent teachers now also holds the salaries of permanent subs, the feds can track that money. If there was any intention of planning to leave thousands of Dallas kids sitting in rooms staffed with subs so money could be saved for certain pet projects instead of reaching Title I compliance with extra teachers, the feds can count. If class sizes were going to soar so Miles had extra money for only three feeder patterns, citizens need to know. If money was stashed in the district savings account as a result of leaving Title I positions vacant, it’s a big problem. Dallas ISD just told TEA in the fall that the district had no money to hold down class sizes in the early grades. What was the truth behind those waivers?
While our trustees may not be able to count to five, we know they can spell E-L P-A-S-O. If the waivers for class sizes, the teacher vacancies in core academics, and a refusal to meet Title I compliance were the result of incompetence, Miles needs to go. If they were planned, it amounts to lying to federal agency and state agencies.
Either way, there needs to be a superintendent’s vacancy in Dallas that is the choice of the Board, not one that is the result of federal and state investigations.