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Home-Rule Effort Still Struggling To Get Message Right

There’s a scary, scary story in the paper today by Matthew Haag about the home-rule effort to reform DISD. The online headline: “Three Sources Say Home Rule Was Pitched With Dallas Mayor Running Schools.” The hard-copy headline (yes, I still subscribe): “Three Say Home Rule Pitched as Takeover.” Here’s the meat:

Because district trustees would appoint the commissioners, the process suggests that outside forces couldn’t control the outcome. However, according to the former city official [much of the DMN story relies on quotes from this one “former city official”], [Sam] Merten [the mayor’s spokesman] said the group’s backers had recruited people to be on the commission and believed a majority of DISD trustees would vote them in.

“He said he would propose a slate of people for the charter that they knew would put in place the charter they would want. They would have enough votes on the DISD board to get that passed,” the person said. “You’d have the folks in place already who are committed no matter the public outpouring or opposition.”

Merten denied telling anyone that and said there is not a list of suggested commissioners. “That’s completely inaccurate. There has not been one conversation about who would serve on this potential commission,” he said.

Clearly Merten is lying. But there’s no reason for him to do that. First, the mayor should probably be talking to Haag, not Merten. Second, the mayor should say the following:

“Of course I have some people in mind that I’d like to see on the commission, if we get enough signatures to reach that point. I’m the mayor, and I’ve been thinking about this issue for a long time time. Did I mention that I’m the mayor? I happen to know a few people. Smart people who would make great commissioners. In any case, the school board would have to appoint the commission. I can’t control the school board. Then, after the commission comes up with ideas for a new DISD charter, the TEA and the voters would still have to approve it. To me, that sounds like the furthest thing from a ‘takeover’ that I can imagine. But I understand that people who want to protect a system that turns out eight college-ready kids for every 100 graduates will say anything to keep us from focusing on the system’s failure.”

I’m not sure what’s happening here, why the home-rule folks aren’t making a clearer case for their cause. The DMN story mentions that Allyn Media is directing the home-rule communication plan. From where I sit, a little more direction is still needed.

UPDATE (3:20) — Sam Merten sent me a note saying that it wasn’t cricket for me to say that he was lying. I gave it some more thought. He’s right. For Merten to lie about those conversations, he would have had to know of their existence. Withdrawn.