Money would replace 14 campuses, upgrade technology, invest in neighborhoods
When Dallas ISD debuted its potential 2020 bond package months ago, it was ambitious. It made waves. It attracted national attention. It was $3.7 billion.
Then the pandemic hit, and the biggest, splashiest parts of it – the ones designed to address historic inequities in the city’s education system – became even more germane.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said that while he can’t legally advocate for the bond now that it’s on the November ballot, he can say that the things it addresses – the aging buildings with poor ventilation and unwieldy spaces, the lack of technological infrastructure, the lack of community supports – became glaringly apparent as shutdowns created crises on several fronts.
“I’m going to have to be very careful here now because the bond has been called,” he said. “But there are several things in here (the bond).”
“As a result of this pandemic, it has exposed that some of our kids don’t have access to the stuff that they need to be able to perform and compete academically.”Michael Hinojosa
For one, about $40 million has been allocated to make sure that every household in the district has broadband internet.
“As a result of this pandemic, it has exposed that some of our kids don’t have access to the stuff that they need to be able to perform and compete academically,” he said.
The bond also provides for significant upgrades to every campus.
“A lot of our campuses were built, you know, 50 to 100 years ago,” he said. “And now with the pandemic, we need more flexible spaces in the classrooms and in the buildings. And so part of the retrofit will also allow for redoing flexible spaces in buildings.
“So those are the bigger things that became very obvious as a result of the pandemic.”
At a town hall in May, Hinojosa said it was also the perfect time to ask voters to approve a bond package.
“The cost of interest rates being so low, here’s a great opportunity to get authorization. And we can adjust going forward,” he said.
The bond also includes four neighborhoods where the district would invest $41 million in public services.
These neighborhoods surround what were once segregated high schools. The neighborhoods had also been redlined – meaning that in the 1930s, it was impossible to get a home loan because residents were Black.
The bond was placed on the ballot after a September school board meeting. District staff explained that despite the required language on the ballot that says the bond is a tax increase, it won’t increase property tax rates because the district’s current interest and sinking rate of $0.2420 per $100 valuation will remain the same.
“I’m happy to support putting this bond before voters,” board president Justin Henry said at September’s board meeting.
“Our kids in Dallas deserve the same kind of facilities that kids in the suburbs have, and that hasn’t happened for a long, long time,” said trustee Dan Micciche.
Joyce Foreman, however, wasn’t so sure. She didn’t cast a vote either way.
“We need a bond, but maybe not this bond,” Foreman said. “We’re calling an election for the largest bond ever during the greatest time of risk and uncertainty probably in our country.”
What does $3.7 billion get you? Because of state law, you will see five different measures on your ballot that will address everything from the $1.9 billion in facilities upgrades across the entire district plus construction of 10 new facilities and the replacement of 14 campuses for $1.1 billion. Technology needs will account for $270 million, $124 million will go to athletics upgrades, and $41 million will create community service investments in four formerly segregated and redlined neighborhoods. A performing arts center and a natatorium are also in the works.
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