Tempers Flare Between Area Senators During Debate on Dallas County Schools' Future

AUSTIN - Tempers flared between two Dallas senators as they debated the fate of a troubled county school system on Thursday.The Senate was to vote on whether or not to abolish the beleaguered Dallas County Schools system, which has faced numerous controversies over questionable finances, business dealings and personnel.Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, brought forward the measure saying despite leadership changes at DCS, nothing can justify the continued existence of the "rogue and unnecessary bureaucracy.""They are a financial time bomb waiting to explode," Huffines said.But Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said he and Huffines had an agreement to call for a November election to let the voters decide DCS' future. West said concerned mismanagement at DCS as well but also worried about the impact of its elimination on smaller school districts that rely on it for busing and other services.Huffines said it's too late and the timing is off to consider such an election and repeatedly said he's trying to protect the children and taxpayers by getting rid of the agency.West asked, "Do you doubt that I'm not trying to do the same thing? That is protect the taxpayers and students of Dallas County? You don't doubt that do you?"As things heated up, Huffines responded, "Well, I do doubt that."West countered, "I consider that a personal affront. ... He insulted my integrity."The two were called to the dais where they were appeared to be scolded by fellow members for letting things get personal.Debate on the bill has been suspended as the two lawmakers went to confer with colleagues.Huffines sought to do away with Dallas County Schools after growing reports of questionable business enterprises related to its stop-arm camera, which allowed cities to fine drivers for going around buses. The agency also came under fire for financial shortcomings, bus drivers running red lights and chronic lateness in picking up students.DCS officials have told lawmakers that they are working to turn things around quickly, which includes new leadership and a scaling back of its stop-arm operations. "We have been addressing the issues that have been brought to our attention," acting superintendent Leatha Mullins told a Senate panel last month. "Now I believe with the team that we have, they are the best in their field and we can get this done."  Continue reading...

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