The Dallas City Council overwhelmingly approved the creation of a non-profit corporation to help Uplift Education Charter Schools secure low-interest building funds. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports the 11- 4 vote may not end the controversy.
For weeks, Uplift Education’s request for help from the city has split this council. Under federal rules, Uplift needs the city to start a non-profit corporation to take advantage of extremely low interest school construction bonds. Those opposed, like council member Vonciel Jones Hill, said a vote for the corporation was a vote against the DISD.
Hill: My district is overwhelmingly opposed to this notion. These are people who have been immersed in the education business for years and years and years. This vehicle allows the brightest and best minds to be drained from DISD.
Hill said a vote “for” amounts to an “adverse incursion upon DISD.” But most other council members disagreed, including Angela Hunt. She said the financial impact on the city was zero. And endorsing bonds for other schools, even private schools, was nothing new. She said this was about creating a “vehicle.”
Hunt; And that vehicle will allow Uplift to save up to half a million a year. Where will that money go, who will benefit from that? It’s the students. At the end of the day, the city is not going to have skin in the game.
Other council members said this plan gives parents a choice of schools for their children. Speakers praising Uplift Education’s academic record also addressed the council this time. Previously, they had not. Those opposed also spoke. The council then approved the plan, 11 to 4. Uplift Education CEO Yasmin Bhatia was pleased, and said the controversy arose out of a misunderstanding.
Bhatia: I think it’s a view that you can only have one system of education, either charters or traditional public schools. And I think we believe that choice is a good thing for families and that you can have a thriving education environment for families that provides various types of options. Private schools, public charter schools and traditional public schools.
Leaders of the Alliance AFT teacher group will keep a close watch.
To them, charters take good students and resources away from public schools. AFT President Rena Honea said Uplift demands students and parents stay heavily involved in their schools.
Honea: And if they’re not, they also say, I realize the school can ask me to leave. And most of them do. So they land back in Dallas public schools.
Honea said it’s not exactly fair. Uplift returns in a month with a more detailed bond request, expected to be up to $90 million. It will need council approval. Bill Zeeble, KERA news.