Tempers Flare at Meeting to Discuss Proposed Charter School

Paradise Baptist Church became the latest arena for the debate over public versus charter schools.

Nearly 100 people packed the Oak Cliff church Friday to discuss Uplift Pinnacle Preparatory's plan to build a new charter school near Interstate 35 and Camp Wisdom Road in southern Dallas.

The meeting was organized by Dallas Independent School District Board Trustee Joyce Foreman. She has been a staunch opponent of building more private schools in southern Dallas. She said the schools are pulling students and funding away from Dallas ISD.

"We don't want any more schools over here," said Foreman. "That's the bottom line. I mean, how many ways can you say that."

Uplift serves approximately 12,000 students in Dallas and 1,300 of them live in the city's 3rd district, where the school would be built. Education CEO Yasmin Bhatia said those numbers are proof that parents want charter schools in the community. She said Foreman's claim that she isn't opposed to parents having a choice is disingenuous.

"It sounds like they are for choice if it's a charter school offered by the district, if it's a choice-school offered by the district, but not if it's by a provider outside the traditional district. That, to me, is not real choice. It's constrained choice," Bhatia said.

Community members opposed to the plan also said the school would cause traffic headaches, but the biggest point of contention is the taxpayer funding going to charter schools instead of Dallas ISD schools, many of which are in need of major repairs.

"It's pulling students away and Carter High School is already getting hit by open enrollment and other schools in the area," said Trina Blair, president of David W. Carter High School's parent-teacher association. "It's the over-saturation that is causing competition. What the school board needs to do is give us some of that bond money so we can help improve our school as well."

Parents on the other side of the debate believe Dallas ISD is not a good fit for their children, and they rely on charter schools to offer an alternative.

"Choice was very important," said Debra King, whose children go to Uplift. "I could look at this (public) school and look at their test scores and then look at charter schools' test scores and then decide do I want to do charter or do I want to do public."

The Dallas City Council will vote on the issue on Jan. 27.

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