Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Title VI Complaint against Dallas ISD, Executive Summary

April, 2015

Dallas Independent School District (DISD) operated under a federal desegregation order from the mid-seventies until 2003. As a part of that desegregation order, a series of magnet schools were created to meet federal desegregation plans. These DISD magnet schools are no longer part of any desegregation order but are top-ranked schools locally and nationally with heavy filtering of students for admission.

Added to these magnet schools are Montessori schools, the single sex academies of Barack Obama and Irma Rangel, and High Tech High School at A. Maceo Smith. Each of these magnets and choice schools carefully screen students on the basis of test scores, grades, attendance, and sometimes a talent audition in the arts. Few of these schools have but a small percentage of Limited English Proficiency (LEP), special education, or at-risk students.

Dallas ISD also operates many elementary and secondary campuses that are on the “Improvement Required” (IR) list of failing schools in Texas. This annual list, created by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), contains 43 DISD schools. In addition, the annual Public Education Grant (PEG) list contains 71 Dallas campuses where test scores have been low enough to give students the opportunity to transfer to another campus. The DISD PEG list, inclusive of IR schools, contains schools with very high percentages of LEP, special education, and at-risk students.

Complainants’ initial concerns centered around the two-tier, unconstitutional system that affords magnet, vanguard, and Montessori students access to campuses with high achieving students, veteran faculty, stable teachers and principals with little churn in professional staff, and higher regular education funding compared to neighborhood campuses with high levels of LEP, special education, and at-risk students who receive few of these learning advantages.

While Dallas ISD must meet Title I comparability on all its campuses in order to receive federal Title I funds, the current comparability formula in Dallas ISD has been compromised through illegal supplanting of high amounts of state compensatory education funds, through backdooring millions in high school allotment funds into the magnets, and through extremely low levels of regular education funding for neighborhood Title I schools. There is substantial evidence that the current financial model of equity used for funding DISD campuses is actually a financial shell game intended to increase the district surplus fund at the expense of low income, high risk students.

 As is the case in all 50 states, the required state curriculum for Dallas ISD students must be provided by local and state foundation funds before any compensatory state or federal funds can be used to supplement learning opportunities on Title I campuses. In Dallas ISD, local property taxes provide funding for the required curriculum with additional state monies available for special education students, bilingual education, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) electives at the secondary level.

In addition, the state of Texas since 2006 has provided an additional supplement of $275 per high school student based on average daily attendance (ADA). This High School Allotment funding could be used for enrichment, such as Advanced Placement courses, or for any programming intended to increase graduation rates and college and career readiness.

Because complainants had concerns about disparities in levels of funding per student provided magnet campuses compared to neighborhood schools, the official state records of actual spending on campuses were compared in regard to regular education funding provided magnet and choice schools compared to neighborhood Title I schools. These financial records, PEIMS records, are available on the Texas Education Agency web site for both planned and actual school district and campus spending per student.

An analysis of the PEIMS records for the past three years provided the following insights:

·         Magnet and choice campuses and the few non-Title I campuses in DISD had much higher levels of regular education funding to provide the instructional program where most students spend the majority of their school day.

·         Huge discrepancies in regular education funding between choice and neighborhood schools had small correlation to the level of teacher experience on campus.

·         Looking at the total spend per student in programming is misleading due to incredibly high levels of state compensatory education funding provided in the presence of low levels of regular education funds, the provision of PreK programs on some campuses and the absence of these programs on other campuses, and high levels of special education funding provided failing campuses for double the district percentage of special education students.

·         The methods DISD used to disperse high school allotment funding essentially negated any Title I comparability. Some magnets received thousands of dollars per student while low performing campuses received much less than the $275 per student provided by the state.

In addition to these intra-district equity issues, a comparison of PEIMS records of the regular education funding of Dallas ISD neighborhood Title I campuses compared to those in bordering suburbs adds another layer of inequity. Essentially, Title I schools in Dallas ISD are at an unconstitutional disadvantage in funding compared to Title I schools in surrounding suburbs and even compared to campuses in suburbs with no Title I funding.  

DISD is a not a property poor district.  Inequities in funding within the district and compared to bordering districts were the result of central administrative decisions over the last three years to move funding out of classrooms filled with some of the highest concentrations of student poverty in the state of Texas. The tax revenue from local property taxes taken from DISD classrooms could then be used to dramatically increase the size of the surplus fund, to create millions for pet projects of the current Superintendent, and to double the size of middle management by increasing class size and lowering the level of teacher experience in Dallas classrooms.

A further examination of PEIMS records revealed probable fraud in the use of state compensatory funding and the use of the PEIMS code for the High School Allotment totaling over $35 million dollars. Moreover, reports from former and present teachers and principals provide consistent evidence that federal Title I dollars are illegally being used to compensate core academic teachers because funding on neighborhood campuses is not sufficient to provide adequate teachers to staff state mandated programming.

The reasons for severe cuts in regular education funding and the illegal supplanting of Title I, state compensatory funding, and the High School Allotment may revolve around the bragging rights to a district surplus fund that grew substantially based on fraud, underfunding high poverty schools, and understaffing Title I campuses. The result was an increase in failing DISD campuses, especially at the secondary level where many Dallas ISD middle schools are rated the worst in the state.

As funding fell on many Title I campuses and the achievement gap between white and minority DISD students grew, DISD’s reserve fund also grew to $350 million dollars and provided the prime impetus for an early renewal of the Superintendent’s contract in July, 2014. The expansive growth of the surplus fund was questioned by no Dallas media outlets and by only a few Trustees, one of whom was physically removed from a district campus and “investigated” by the Superintendent and another Trustee whom the Superintendent helped smear in a local alternative paper known for its loyalty to the Superintendent.

In addition to funding inequities within DISD and compared to bordering districts, the current Superintendent created greater disparities in experienced teacher talent available for choice schools compared to constant teacher and principal churn at failing neighborhood schools. The policies of the current Superintendent are violations of the Equal Protection guarantees of the 90% of Dallas ISD students attending neighborhood schools.

Greater teacher and principal churn on failing campuses, the extensive use of inexperienced and uncertified Teach for America recruits on failing campuses, and discriminatory employment practices have become common place with the current Broad-trained Superintendent. These discriminatory employment practices, violating state and federal laws, were documented in Human Capital Management text messages that were released after the firing of several whistleblowers in the Internal Audit Department over the past year and the departure of a district investigator who feared releasing a report documenting illegal employment practices. Interference of the Superintendent into internal investigations also raises concerns regarding the ability of Trustees to provide for the safety and security of 160,000 students.

Similar to the shell game played with campus funding, the majority of Trustees on the Dallas ISD Board never received reports detailing the internal investigation on illegal hiring practices that was completed for them by Internal Audit any more than most Trustees were given enough information to determine the source of the sudden increase in the District surplus fund and whether that increase came on the backs of Title I students.

The lack of transparency in District operations provides a fertile breeding space for violations of equal protection guarantees of students. DISD Trustees lack information to access accuracy in teacher vacancies, Title I comparability formulas, campus funding, and Human Capital Resources staffing practices provided them by the Superintendent and central staff. Trustees who ask “too many questions”  have been excluded from vital information by the Superintendent of Schools. This practice removes the protections guaranteed students and parents as constituents of elected Trustees in a democracy.

Annual budget discussions that include power point presentations that give the appearance of equitable levels of spending across campuses when no such equity exists make it difficult for elected Trustees to guarantee student access to comparable district resources.

The following Title VI complaint is intended to provide equity in sourcing of all campuses across Dallas ISD by correcting illegal and unconstitutional practices in student funding, campus and administrative staffing, biased appraisal systems for teachers and principals, lack of adequate special education services and training, lack of campus security, lack of appropriate staff development, and lack of resources to adequately decrease student attrition in comprehensive high schools. Each of the separate complaints described in detail in the Title VI complaint will require corrective remedies in order to provide constitutional Equal Protection guarantees for all Dallas ISD students, but the best protection of the civil rights guaranteed all students in Dallas public schools is much more transparency at the Board level.
The full 76 page version of this complaint being studied by Department of Education staff, has replaced this morning the older 70 page version on the WFAA web site.  You can now go to for this most current 76 page copy.

I welcome questions.  The three attorneys who are the federal investigators on this complaint would love to hear from people with evidence that may be related to this complaint.  Here is their address:

Office for Civil Rights,  Dallas Office
U.S. Department of Education
OCR Complaint # 06-15-1411
1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620
Dallas, TX 75201-6810
Telephone: (214) 661-9600

Addendum, on the day this blog was posted, June 3, 2015, the Channel 8 evening news had a very detailed 5 minute coverage of this complaint and what it represented.  20 days later Mike Miles resigned.  He understood that superintendents have been sent to federal prisons for years due to such activity as is documented above.  The case was never completed by the U.S. Department of education until September of 2017.  See that 9 page letter at  It clearly affirms the complaint issues and invalidates NONE of them while saying other entities must complete those investigations.

Bill Betzen