On the Sunday, August 31, 2014 edition of Inside Texas Politics, WFAA reporter Jason Whitely interviewed Texas State Representative Jason Villalba regarding Villalba’s plan to divide the Dallas Independent School District.
Representative Villalba continually refers to “we:” “we’ve asked the commission”, “the kinds of reforms we’re asking for”, “we’re in the preliminary stages”, “we would ask the experts”, “people that we like to use.” Who exactly is this “we?” It appears that he is using “The Royal We,” defined by one dictionary as “the first person plural pronoun used by a sovereign in formal address to refer to himself or herself.”
The honorable position of a Texas State Representative is that of a public servant, elected by the people in order to best represent their wishes in the legislature, and it is not a hereditary sovereign. Perhaps Representative Villalba needs to review the Texas Election Code – he won’t find any monarchs described there.
Here is the transcript of the 4 minute discussion. We are interested in public feedback on this issue.
Jason Whitely (JW): We first saw it on a tweet, unsure if it was a threat, or a promise. But Republican state Representative Jason Villalba (District 114) says he wants to divide up the Dallas Independent School District, and he pledges to introduce a bill in the legislature that would do just that. Villalba joins us in studio to explain his proposal.
What do you have in mind? Good to see you again.
Rep. Jason Villalba (RJV): Good to see you. Great to be back. You know the discussion about whether or not we’re going to divide DISD is a last ditch effort. You know we’ve asked the commission that is charged with putting together a charter for home rule to act. They’ve told us they’re not going to act until after November. We’re not going to see Home Rule implemented.
So I can tell you that we’re going down to Austin in January and legislators like me are going to get down there and find ways to find more reforms in education. That’s going to include making it easier to have home rule districts and that’s also going to make it easier to do thinks like divide up ISD’s if we can’t get the kinds of reforms we’re asking for.
JW: Are you going to put a bill on the floor that divides up the district, and if so, what do you have in mind?
RJV: I wouldn’t do it unless we couldn’t get there on Home Rule. You know, we tried this Home Rule effort here in Dallas. The commission now has been dragging their heels for a period of time. So what I’m going to do is a couple of things, it’s a two-step, right?
The first step is to make sure that we can get Home Rule implemented into the ISD’s much easier than it is now. Lower those thresholds. Make the appointment of the commission based something different than what we’re doing it today on.
But if we don’t get there and if we don’t see the kinds of reforms, if we can’t get the control back to the local families and neighborhoods, then we will take drastic action to do the kinds of things like considering a division of DISD.
It’s not a threat. What we’re talking about here is something that we have to do to make sure that parents like myself, I’m a DISD parent, I have 2 children in DISD, but I can tell you right now that we need reforms at the local level. We need local parents and teachers making the decisions for our school, education decisions, and we’re not seeing that right now.
JW: How many pieces do you divide up the district into?
RJV: We’re in the preliminary stages of talking about what that would look like. We would reach out to people that we have great respect for in the district to talk about what a division would look like.
JW: And one of the biggest concerns as you’ve heard through the entire Home Rule debate is how do we ensure that underprivileged parts of town aren’t stuck with failing schools?
RJV: Well, that’s a question that we’re working on now with Home Rule but it seems that other areas around the city are not interested in the kinds of reforms that we’re talking about through Home Rule, so we’ll allow them to have local control. Let the parents in those neighborhoods determine how they want to address these very specific situations about how they deal with economically disadvantage areas.
Also, if we did a division, we would ask the experts that, people that we trust, people that we like to use and talk about these issues, to help us craft a reasonable and fair division of DISD.
JW: And there’s been precedent on this before but it didn’t get very far, you were saying.
RJV: We saw it before from a local representative here in town, ah, it did not get past committee.
Look, this is a very bold action. Will it get past the committee? We don’t know, but it’s something that we’ve got to try. I can tell you right now, we’re going to have the most conservative legislature in Texas history. So if folks think they can drag their heels and not find educational reforms that we’re looking for, you can guarantee the legislators down next year are going to be able to do it and we’re going to have the authority and the ability and the votes to get these kinds of progressive issues done.
JW: And Jason, last 30 seconds here, shouldn’t parents and teachers have a say in this? Why isn’t a referendum a better idea? Some form of a referendum?
RJV: We absolutely should have parents and teachers have a say in this. And guess what: That’s what Home Rule does. The charter would be put to the people, to the parents.
JW: But that’s not going to happen, right?
RJV: Well, it’s not going to happen because this commission has dragged it’s heels too long and we’re not going to have the opportunity to vote. And so we’re going to make it much easier next time when we do this in a year and a half or two years to be able to make this happen much quicker without all these thresholds and tests.