DISD Board of Trustees to vote on proposal for private partnerships with Pre-K providers

Dallas School Board Trustees are set to vote Thursday night on a proposal to enter private partnerships with Pre-K providers.

The district says it will generate more revenue, but opponents say it is a slippery slope toward more privatization of public schools.

The district is considering the proposal because of a law the state legislature passed that allows districts to get more money per student in exchange for giving 90 percent of that money to private organizations.

Pre-K is an important part of setting kids up for success, but it is costly for school districts.

Now, the state legislature is offering more money for students, with a caveat; districts must partner with outside organizations.

“Republicans and conservatives always believe the private sector is more efficient than the public sector,” said SMU political science professor Cal Jillson.

DISD School Board President Dr. Edwin Flores believes the partnerships will help the district by allowing it to save $900 for every student who attends a partnership Pre-K.

“We have private/public partnerships all over the place. The city does it, the county does it, the state does it, the federal government does it,” Dr. Flores said.

Just last month, DISD's administration offered a similar proposal for all grades.

Dr. Flores said that's something he still supports.

“Booker T. Washington School for the Visual Performing Arts is a top rated arts magnet in the United States. What if we found two or three partners that would want to partner with us to provide that [kindergarten through 8th grade] piece to then be the feeder into Booker T.?  Wouldn't that be a fantastic partnership?” Dr. Flores said.

DISD Trustee Audrey Pinkerton is concerned that the private partnerships will operate with unelected school boards.

“DISD administration is telling the board the financial impact of these 10 proposed partnership charters is $270,000,” Pinkerton said. “DISD keeps 10 percent. I'm not willing to sell out my constituent's right to democratically elected governance for just $27,000.”

One of the pre-schools that would benefit from the partnership is Mi Escuelita, a school that is already connected with Uplift Education, a charter school company that provides Pre-K for eight of their elementary schools.

“Why would we turn over management and operations of our schools to outside operators, who have not proven they could do a better job than DISD?” Pinkerton asked.

When asked if this proposal will open up more Pre-K spots this fall, district officials said it won’t, but they hope the model will lead to additional partnerships that will serve more students later.