Debate continues over DISD's partnership with private schools

Dallas ISD leaders were out at several schools on Tuesday explaining a public/ private partnership plan it wants for Pre-K.

The district says it's a good deal financially and offers more students opportunities. But skeptics think the district may be giving up too much.

DISD held four community meetings simultaneously Tuesday night. But not everyone is sold on the district's Pre-K proposal, even if it means additional dollars coming in.

At the community meeting held at W.T. White High School in North Dallas, DISD Assistant Superintendent for Early Learning Derek Little laid out a Pre-K plan that, if approved by the school board, would mean additional revenue for the district.

“It’s a way for us to continue to expand our rapidly growing Pre-K program while at the same time securing more financial resources to support that work,” he said.

Little is referring to existing partnerships DISD has with 10 of its 30 Pre-K partner sites. They are programs that are not held at a DISD campus, but the district provides the students and the teachers.

Through funding recently made available through the passage of Senate Bill 1882, Little says the district can receive an additional 10 percent per student.

“The experience of the students remains the same. It’s a high-quality Pre-K program,” he said. “Now, we get to tap into a funding resource that previously hasn’t been available.”

Little says the state pays DISD. The district then, in turn, pays the partners 90 percent. Some people in the audience were wary of the proposal.

“I don’t think the district is getting enough for what it’s giving up and what it’s risking,” said resident Melissa Kingston. “I see this, quite frankly, as a slippery slope.”

Rene Honea is the president of Dallas Alliance-AFT, the largest teachers union serving Dallas. She disagrees with Little and believes the district is moving too fast.

“Our Pre-K students and their families don’t need to be guinea pigs for something that we’re not totally sure about,” Honea said. "There needs to be a level of success across the state. Then, we can compare to there. We have some answers to questions that cannot be answered right now.”

DISD board of trustees will meet on Thursday to discuss the proposal.

One trustee who was at Tuesday’s meeting says he supports the plan and will have to see what the other trustees think.