How Vouchers Became a Flashpoint in a Dallas ISD Trustee Race

In an elementary auditorium with creaky chairs, Dallas ISD trustee Dustin Marshall and challenger Lori Kirkpatrick took the stage Tuesday night, trying to persuade a room of voters they were the best choice to represent District 2.And while a few DISD-specific issues were discussed -- such as the district’s teacher evaluation system, the encroachment of charter schools and the community school concept -- something else hogged the spotlight.Kirkpatrick’s claim that Marshall supports school vouchers took center stage, leaving the incumbent calling his opponent out for misleading voters about his dedication to public schools."I don’t support private school vouchers. Don’t allow her to convince you otherwise," Marshall said.Over the past weeks, Kirkpatrick has repeatedly pointed to one of Marshall's recent votes as justification for her claims.In January, the DISD board voted on a resolution of legislative priorities being circulated to school districts in the area. The resolution had three main points: one questioning the efficacy of the state’s yet-to-be-implemented A-F rating system, another opposing any type of state voucher plan, and the final asking for tweaks in school funding formulas.Marshall voted against the measure, saying he believes that the state’s current accountability system is broken and that A-F ratings might help. While 95 percent of schools “met standard” in the state’s current rankings, he said, only 1 in 6 high school graduates are ready for college.The only other trustee to vote against the resolution was Edwin Flores."There are certainly things in this resolution that I support, particularly around lobbying the state for additional education funding for public schools," Marshall said at the board meeting. "But I'm concerned that we are so quick to condemn A-F ratings while they are still a work in progress."Kirkpatrick has used that vote as ammunition for her campaign.“When it mattered the most, our trustee -- for the first time in the history of DISD -- voted against a public education resolution opposing vouchers,” Kirkpatrick said Tuesday. “We all know that the A-F accountability system is a pretext for the voucher movement. This is standard ‘education reform’ procedure.”  Continue reading...

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