Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Public transparency generates public confidence.

Public confidence is needed for voters to approve the planned Dallas ISD November Tax Ratification Election (TRE) to increase property tax by 13 cents per $100 valuation.

Currently DISD transparency online is extensive, but fragmented into thousands of locations and charts making many inquiries out of the reach of most people. The people of Dallas, especially parents selecting schools for their child, must have a more easy access to unified information about DISD schools allowing much more rapid and easy school comparisons. The best solution is for DISD to unify data for all schools, by school, into one DISD spreadsheet.  

An Excel School Equity Spreadsheet could be created with one row for every DISD school and 200 or more columns for the variables most in demand by the public. More variables on all schools can be added as needed. Initial variables would include school identifying information including census tract, Trustee district #, building student capacity, facility condition index, enrollment by grade, student demographics, annual achievement, teacher demographics, mean and median salary, and experience, and school ratings such as the School Effectiveness Index (SEI). The variables would include the 32 budget item allocation categories per student from the online PEIMS Financial Reports.  These 32 items identify where money to run each school is coming from, and how much is allocated per child. A 10-year set of such spreadsheets would allow anyone to replicate the long term charts related to DISD progress that are in the TRE Board Briefing Information for 8-9-18.

Questions that could be easily answered with an Excel School Equity Spreadsheet include:
1.             Parents could instantly compare schools anywhere in DISD with each other, schools near their home, or near their work, or near their grandmother.
2.             Parents could focus on any variable, such as average teacher experience, School Effectiveness Indices (SEI), as well as multiple student achievement measurements. 
3.             Anyone could study the range of per-student funding by school from each of the 32 sources of funding per child in DISD schools.
4.             Anyone could study the range of "regular funding" (the funding from local tax collections) for the average student in each school?  Is it equal for all schools?  If not, why not?
5.             Are the schools with higher percentages of high poverty, English as a Second Language (ESL), or handicapped students, receiving the full amount of supplemental funding they should receive based on federal formulas, without any reduction in "regular" funding?

These, and hundreds of thousands of other questions, could instantly be answered with one School Equity Excel Spreadsheet for each school year.
  Currently the hours of work required keep multiple school comparisons effectively hidden from parents and the general public.

The general concept of the DISD School Equity Excel Spreadsheet has been approved unanimously at meetings of both the Dallas NAACP and the Our Community Our Schools Coalition.  Other groups concerned about equity in DISD schools are being approached about joining this effort, and/or providing ideas and direction for this effort to expose the inequity between Dallas schools. Dallas ISD can show confidence in the truths of school equity and student achievement within DISD by making Excel School Equity Spreadsheets publicly available before the November Tax Ratification Election.

Dallas ISD has nothing to hide!

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