DISD Super Slams School Choice at DRC Event

DISD Administration building | Image by DISD

Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde slammed school choice at a speaking engagement on Tuesday, claiming such a policy would take taxpayer money away from traditional public schools.

Elizalde made the comments at a Dallas Regional Chamber event at Moody Performance Hall.

“One thing that I can guarantee is if private school subsidies are part of this state, we will never have enough money in public education to pay our teachers what they are worth,” Elizalde claimed, according to KERA News.

As reported by The Dallas Express, Elizalde has staked an anti-school choice position, suggesting that any state policy change allowing families to use taxpayer money to defray the costs of private school or homeschooling would come at the expense of public school budgets.

She previously pointed to a proposal by the Texas Senate that, if enacted, would have awarded families more than $8,000 to help with the costs of private school or homeschooling, noting that the basic state allotment per student is around $6,100. She claimed such a program would encourage families to pull their students out of public schools.

“When we look at spending as a whole, when you actually go to the Texas Education Agency website and you look at what our average spending per student is across Texas, it’s not even remotely close to that basic allotment number,” said Mandy Drogin, campaign director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s education initiative Next Generation.

“Unions, associations, superintendents — those entities that have a vested interest in misdirecting the public about how students are funded — they use that basic allotment number, but it’s nowhere close.”

Dallas ISD’s budget for the 2023-2024 school year is more than $2.5 billion. The district’s budget has continued to grow in recent years, even as student enrollment has been on the decline.

“Traditional K-12 schools are hemorrhaging enrollment due to growing concerns over content, quality, and the politicization of the classroom. This steep decline is evidence that parents are ready for something different, something better,” James Quintero of the Texas Public Policy Foundation told The Dallas Express in a previous interview.

For its part, Dallas ISD underperformed on its student achievement outcomes, according to the latest Texas Education Agency (TEA) accountability report for the 2021-2022 school year. Only 41% of students scored at grade level on their STAAR exams, and almost 20% of the district’s graduating Class of 2022 did not earn a diploma in four years, despite the hard work of the district’s teachers and principals.

Elizalde also took aim at upcoming changes to TEA’s grading criteria for accountability reports, suggesting that the downward revisions she is anticipating at Dallas ISD are meant to further erode Texans’ faith in public schools.

“It is at [the] very least disappointing that it appears all of these have been set up on a timeline leading up to a special session that may be discussing private school subsidies,” Elizalde said, per KERA News.

The Texas Legislature is expected to take up school choice legislation in a special session in October.

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