Proposed Deep Ellum School Brews Controversy - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Proposed Deep Ellum School Brews Controversy

Charter school asking for bond-financing plan



    Dallas city leaders waded into a fight Monday over a proposed charter school in the middle of the Deep Ellum nightclub district.

    Uplift Education wants to open a school in a building in the 2600 block of Elm Street.

    A City Council committee reviewed a request for the full council to approve a bond financing plan for Uplift schools.

    Officials said Dallas taxpayers would not be responsible for repaying the bonds and the City Council vote is only to set up an independent financing agency that would carry the debt.

    Controversy Surrounds Deep Ellum Charter School

    [DFW] Controversy Surrounds Deep Ellum Charter School
    Neighors say they are concerned about a proposed new charter school on Elm Street in the middle of Deep Ellum's nightclub district.
    (Published Monday, Feb. 6, 2012)

    "What we've been saying all along -- the City of Dallas has got to have better education, whether it's charter schools, public schools, private schools, college or university. It's about education," said Councilman Tennell Atkins, chair of the council's Economic Development Committee.

    Uplift operates several other well-respected charter schools in Dallas, Irving and Arlington.

    But the Uplift expansion plan comes as the Dallas Independent School District is planning to close 11 inner-city public schools, and some council members said they are uncomfortable endorsing charter schools now.

    "Why come to us when there is so much chaos going on with DISD in the community right now and get us involved in it?" Councilwoman Carolyn Davis said.

    "This needs to go to the public, Mr. Chair, so the public can be totally informed on what's going to happen with these charter schools," Davis said.

    Uplift officials said they could find money in other ways but time is of the essence.

    "If they don't get the construction started on time, then they won't be able to open that next year or on schedule and, basically, they'll be sitting there with an empty school that they'll be receiving no revenue for," said Joseph Eckert, an attorney representing Uplift.

    Under the plan, some of the bond money could be used to open charter schools in surrounding cities, too.

    Dallas teacher association leaders said many questions about the Uplift plan require more study.

    "Is it good for cities, for the students of Dallas, when their intention is to take that bond money and use it in other municipalities?" said Rena Honea, an official with Alliance AFT.

    Last week, many neighboring business people gathered at a community meeting to voice concerns about a school near bars.

    They said they fear the school could block future plans for nightclubs in the area.

    And Honea said parents should question the Deep Ellum location.

    "Those students are very impressionable," she said. "Why would any parent want their child to be going to school in the middle of a bar location?"

    Neighbors are also planning to fight the school over a lack of parking in the area.

    Uplift has asked for a variance from city parking requirements.