The Dallas School Board has adopted a $1.2 billion budget that leaves intact some of the superintendent’s controversial projects despite attempts to de-fund them. The budget will also cover a 2 percent pay raise for teachers and support staff.
The marathon budget session lasted well past midnight. In a 6 to 2 vote, trustees approved a budget with $51 million more in expenses than last year.
Before getting there, some of Superintendent Mike Miles’s toughest critics, including trustee Bernadette Nutall, tried first to kill the $4 million Leadership Academy launched last year. It trains future principals and assistant principals.
“This (should) not be funded until we recognize it’s working and we get at least a year’s evaluation of this.”
Nutall wondered why the district would spend 4 million hard-to-find dollars on the in-house principal academy when area universities already train school leaders. But School Board President Eric Cowan and others disagreed.
“I’m not supporting the amendment, I’m supporting the Leadership Academy for one more year. Then we can talk about it as we move through the next year whether they’re being effective principals. I think we’re attempting to kill a program before we know it’s working," said Cowan.
Cowan and five others voted to continue funding the academy, but also conduct a mid-year check on how its graduates are performing in their schools.
Trustee challenges continued.
Carla Ranger and Nutall also tried cutting nearly $9 million from Miles’s plan to improve student outcomes at Lincoln, Madison and Pinkston High Schools and the schools that feed them. The plan involves not just DISD money, but donated resources, from after-school programs to tutoring efforts. Board member Dan Micciche defended the plan.
“I still think the idea of trying to pull these resources together to raise student achievement and give these kids a better chance is a good idea. This is answering a long-standing need that has existed.”
Trustees were successful in thwarting one Miles idea. The Superintendent wanted to increase middle school class size from one teacher to 24 students, to 1 to 25.
“Raising the class size by one in the middle school so we could lower the class size in elementary school and keep the ratios similar in high school was a good thing,” said Miles.
But board members cited growing middle school problems and decided to leave more teachers in the those schools.
The budget also calls for additional tutoring, after school programs, pumps more money into early childhood education, and adds to its budget reserve.