A Dallas public school trustee won a short reprieve Wednesday in her battle to block a new charter school when the Dallas city council delayed a vote on the plan for two weeks.
Dallas Independent School Trustee Joyce Foreman spoke at the city council meeting against the proposal from Uplift Education to build a new charter school near Interstate 35E and Camp Wisdom Road. The school would house 66 classrooms on the 18-acre campus.
Foreman said 27,000 Dallas school students already attend charter schools, 12,000 of them in her part of the district.
T.G. Terry Elementary School is just two blocks from the new proposed charter school and Foreman fears additional drain of public school students and the state-per-pupil funding that goes with them.
“If, in fact, we continue to make charters open in this area, there will be no choice because the Dallas public schools will close because of low enrollment and the only choice will be charters,” Foreman said.
The Dallas ISD closed 12 schools in 2008 because of low enrollment.
A group of public school supporters joined Foreman at Dallas City Hall, including Bill Betzen, a former teacher. Betzen claims Uplift students scored lower than Dallas public school students on college entrance exams.
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“So, we’ve got to worry about charter school performance. They’re not doing as well. The reason is they have lower experienced teachers,” Betzen said.
Councilmember Carolyn King Arnold said she has 37 years of experience. She argued the site along an interstate highway and beside a McDonald’s restaurant is a poor location and she spoke in favor of public schools.
“I would want us, a council, to support the public schools as a partner,” Arnold said.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has made Dallas Independent School District improvement a top priority through all his years in office, but he did not speak about the issue Wednesday.
The public school supporters were confronted at the meeting with a much larger crowd of Uplift Education supporters. Three busloads of students and parents from existing Uplift campuses came to show support for the new charter school.
Uplift project manager Eric Goodloe cited Rawlings’ “Grow South” program as a reason to support the new school.
Parent Elizabeth Gautier spoke for many about her child’s Uplift experience.
“It’s been nothing short of amazing,” Gautier said.
“This outlines several goals and initiatives to serve as a compass for smart growth which we believe that we are the perfect example for,” Goodloe said.
The Dallas Plan Commission unanimously endorsed the Uplift plan before sending it to the city council for Wednesday’s scheduled vote.
Councilman Lee Kleinman said if the Dallas ISD was requesting a school at the site, the council would have no reservations.
“The people vote with their feet,” Kleinman said about the growth of private schools. “This is great for Southern Dallas. This is the choice that people want all over the city, and now we’re having the state to pay for that choice. That is a great option.”
Uplift officials said they have already spent $500,000 on the project. The two week delay gives both sides more time to make their case at Dallas City Hall.