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DISD Petition Looking To Create Home-Rule District

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - If you're a voter heading to the polls in Dallas Tuesday, you may be asked to sign a petition involving the Dallas Independent School District. If you sign, you would be supporting a change in how the district is run and who's in charge.

DISD as we know it could go away if a group succeeds in making the district the first in the state to invoke "home rule."

The voter-approved charter would exempt the school district from a lot of state red tape that some say is holding students back. Others say the move would put control of the district in the hands of unelected people who can set their own rules and be accountable to no one.

DISD trustees learned Monday night that their jobs could be replaced by what's called a home rule charter. The 20-year-old state law allows school districts to bypass some state laws and create a new power structure.

Attorneys for the district told an almost empty meeting room how a group called Support Our Public Schools is launching a petition drive. If successful, it would force the district to appoint a 15-member charter commission to come up with a new form of government that leaves them and possibly voters out of decision-making processes.

Some trustees expressed shock at the idea and suggested that Superintendent Mike Miles is quietly supportive of the idea. "It would be good to get some more flexibility, that's something a charter commission could do," the Superintendent said.

A home rule charter would allow DISD to operate under its own rules. Miles suggested longer school years and hiring teachers at lower salaries to save money. The change would also reduce the influence of teachers associations and still require standardized testing.

But it's the possibility that the board of trustees could be dissolved and replaced by appointed leaders that is generating the most outrage.

Dallas resident Carla Ranger said, "I am completely against anything that opposes public education and DISD."

The home-rule district process involves a petition drive that needs signatures from five-percent of Dallas registered voters. Then a 15-member appointed commission would be formed to develop a new constitution that would have to be approved by the TEA and voters again.

While the process isn't easy the petition was enough to create concern among trustees.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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