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Home Rule Backers Probably Have the 25k Sigs They Need, So What Happens Next?

Last week, people who know people were telling me that Support Our Public Schools, the group trying to gather 25,000 signatures so it can put a home rule measure on the November ballot, has met that goal. Now I’m hearing the number of signatures gathered is closer to 30k (which makes sense — always build in a buffer) and that the group could present them at any time. Officially, the group’s PR firm, Allyn Media, says it won’t confirm or deny signature numbers.

So why hasn’t SOPS presented these signatures and started the home rule-on-the-ballot process? Will they present them soon? And what happens then? All those questions have different answers, but they are linked to another question that is much harder to answer: Will the DISD board go ahead and implement home rule-style changes and make this entire movement moot?

Answers: They haven’t presented yet because either a) they have fewer signatures than I’ve been told by multiple people (chance: 20 percent); or b) there is back room negotiating going on for some sort of compromise between the interested parties here, like the teachers union, various board members, SOPS, local education interest groups, etc. (chance: 94.2 percent). I’m hopeful these ALLEGED negotiations can bear fruit, but I’m very doubtful. In particular, I can’t see the powerful teachers union AFT signing off on any proposed DISD charter changes that involve longer hours or more school days without promises they won’t lose money in the deal, and I don’t see how that could be promised. That said, remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and so on.

My guess is then if  the ALLEGED attempts at reconciliation fail, the signatures will be produced in short order. What happens then? Everyone digs in. Battle lines are drawn. Those who believe home rule is the best chance we have for accelerating substantive change in the district — I’m a fan of the process, for what it’s worth, if only because it’s forcing these discussions — will move to sell it to voters, first by putting together a commission of folks with street cred on this issue (I’m thinking of involved, passionate DISD parents, not just education activists and politicos). Those who believe this is a takeover by rich corporate suits — an argument that makes absolutely zero sense, but whatever — will begin setting up their straw men. Like all campaigns, it will get ugly real fast.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, even if the ALLEGED compromise attempts fail. Because as trustee Mike Morath pointed out in Jim Schutze’s column last week, the board members against this have been saying to everyone, hey, we don’t need this home rule thing, because we can enact these reforms ourselves. (Specifically, things to make the board more accountable and implement longer school days and/or school years.) And yet … they aren’t doing it.

Why can’t the board just go ahead now and decide to implement these reforms. Have some public debate, discuss it amongst yourselves, but go ahead and get it done. Do the reform-y things you say the board says it has the power to do. If these signatures are presented, that would be the best outcome for everyone. I know you’d like me to estimate the chances of that happening, but Vegas just took them off the board.