Can We Finally Get Rid of Dallas ISD Single-Member Districts?

dmag_cover_091980The Supreme Court’s overturning of the key provision of the Voting Rights Act may present a real opportunity for the long-suffering Dallas ISD. Our response to it should be an enthusiastic LET’S GO!!

Single-member districts were ordered by the Legislature in 1973 in response to the Act. Since that time, the dysfunction of the board has been the largest contributor to the DISD’s low performance, even including the prevalence of disadvantaged students. Board members have a pattern, dating back decades (as this D Magazine cover from 1980 shows) of interfering with the administration, attempting to create fiefdoms out of the schools in their districts, obstructing the firing of incompetent administrators, principals, and teachers, and placing personal agendas above the performance of students.

Besides being a drag on the system, single-member districts are outdated and ineffective.

Point 1: Single-member districts have not achieved their desired goal of substantially increasing minority representation. Seventy percent of DISD students are Hispanic yet there is currently no Hispanic member of the board.

Point 2: Four decades after single-member districts were ordered, it seems disingenuous to suggest that they are still needed to protect black voters from losing representation in an overwhelmingly white city. For one thing, the city is today only 50.7 percent white. Second, this is a city that twice elected a black mayor and twice voted for a black man to be president (last year in a 57-43 landslide).

The Supreme Court has now handed Dallas a golden opportunity to fix the biggest problem we have: our public school system. Let’s seize it.