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Dallas on Board with Fight Against Sanctuary Cities Bill. Along with other Texas cities like Austin and San Antonio, Dallas is joining the fight against the state’s sanctuary cities bill. Yesterday, Mayor Rawlings called SB4, which goes into effect Sept. 1, “unconstitutional,” and said it “greatly infringes on the city’s ability to protect.” There is talk among these cities’ mayors of potential litigation.
City Council Unsure How to Spend $800 Million. There’s a new $800 million bond package proposal from the Citizens Bond Task Force that encompasses streets, city buildings, parks, trails, housing, and flood control. Now the city just has to figure out how best to divvy up the cash and keep each district happy. They hope to vote on June 28.
Women Ambassadors Forum Helps Shape Women Leaders. The third annual women’s forum, being held at SMU, covered topics yesterday like preparing women to be successful leaders and promoting gender equality. Jen Welter, the NFL’s first ever female coach, spoke, as well as Neiman Marcus’ Carrie Tharp, and others. “Being the first is great, but what is most important is not being the last. I was so conscious every time I stepped up, because I didn’t want my narrative to be, ‘We had a girl once, but….’ Just realize as you’re the first, continue to set the stage so you’re not the last,” Welter said. The four-day forum ends tomorrow.
Exxxotica Versus Dallas City Hall Moving to New Orleans. The porn expo’s fight with City Hall is heading to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in NoLa. The expo’s attorneys filed an appeal on Tuesday, a few weeks after the case—initially filed last year—was dismissed here. Next week, City Council will vote on paying Dallas’ outside attorneys even more to fight the suit.Full Story
Dallas City Performance Hall is Getting a New Name. Yesterday, the city council voted to accept a $22 million arts gift from the Moody Foundation. A stipulation of the gift was changing Dallas City Performance Hall to Moody Performance Hall. The name change will happen in a few weeks.
Suzanne Wooten Declared Innocent Over Bribery Charges. The former state district judge had been convicted in 2011 on nine counts, including bribery and money laundering. But yesterday, she was acquitted of all the charges. Her attorney called the whole ordeal a “legal fiction.”
Interim Dallas County Schools Leader Wants Records to be Reviewed. Interim Superintendent Leatha Mullins asked law enforcement officials to review business records for the agency. This will also include a forensic audit of stop-arm camera contracts as well as real estate dealings. “We have completed an audit, refinanced the bonds, reorganized procedures, and there’s a complete team of new leadership including the Board of Trustees. We’ve truly transformed DCS and are moving forward,” Mullins said.
UNT Wary After Multiple Sexual Assaults Near Denton Campus. There have been multiple sexual assaults and attempted assaults northwest of the school, and police are investigating them. They don’t know if one or more people are responsible for the incidents, which entail someone entering homes after knocking or breaking in. An alert was sent to UNT students and faculty advising them to be extra cautious.Full Story
As I talk with Taylor Toynes in his office at For Oak Cliff, at the corner of Marsalis and Ann Arbor Avenue, he points out the window at what is now a service station.
“My grandfather’s grocery store was across the parking lot from here. He sold the best burgers in Dallas. Promise.”
I ask him if he got paid. “I ate for free,” he says with a smile. “I ate for free and I got a lot of knowledge from my grandfather and a lot of love from the community. Now, when I come around, everybody already knows me.”
These days they know him not as the kid who took their burger order, but as the community organizer who got Mark Zuckerberg to help clear a vacant lot for a community garden. And they know him as the guy who has big plans for this part of Oak Cliff, starting with backpacks and school supplies for thousands of kids (this year’s Back to School Festival will take place August 12 at Glendale Park) and ending with college-ready graduates prepared to give back to their community. Recently, his organization joined forces with Strong Schools Strong Dallas to advocate for a Tax Ratification Election (TRE) to raise more than $100 million for DISD, which is facing a $60 million shortfall.
On Thursday, four DISD trustees, including Lew Blackburn, voted against the TRE, which would cost the average taxpayer an additional $220 per year and save the district millions in interest by allowing it to pay off its debt earlier. Blackburn was quoted as saying, “I don’t know what we’d do with an extra $100 million a year. I’m sure if we had the sandbox, we’d figure out some kinda castle to build.”
But Toynes isn’t daunted. He grew up in this community. He knows what it is capable of and what it needs. Sand castles aren’t on his list.
So, you share an alma mater with C.J. Miles and Larry Johnson? We went to state this year in basketball. Skyline High School never went to state before. This was the first year. You ought to take a trip up there. It’s like a university. It was the first magnet school in the country. They have the aeronautics cluster where students can graduate with a pilot’s license. They work on planes in the school; there’s a hangar at the school. The cluster that I was in was called Man and His Environment, and it included sociology, psychology, and law. Those were the three tracks that you could take. My first year, we learned sociology. By the end, I was taking AP Human Geography, which was the coolest subject. We learned about people, and the movement of people, and different cultures. It prepared me so much for college.
Did you end up going to law school? I decided not to go. When I attended the University of North Texas, I majored in political science because I knew that was the track to go to law school. Then, when I graduated, I worked at the District Attorney’s office in the Family Violence Division. I had taken my LSAT and did okay on it. I had written my personal statement. I had gotten recommendations. Heath Harris, who was the First Assistant to the District Attorney at the time, wrote me a letter of recommendation to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. And then I read the article.
What article? It was an editorial on the prison pipeline, and it had the number of inmates in the state of Texas compared to the number of college ready graduates broken down by zip codes. I saw 75216—the zip code where I grew up, where we are right now—and it had 681 inmates and only two college ready graduates. Right then, as I was sitting in the DA’s office, I thought, I don’t know if I want to do this because I’ll probably be a prosecutor. I thought, Man, I want to be a teacher. I want to get to kids before they get to this point. So I signed up for Teach for America. I could’ve ended up anywhere in America, obviously, but I chose DISD in South Oak Cliff. And they granted me my wish.
Where did you end up getting assigned? I was placed at W.W. Bushman elementary school on Bonnie View. I grew up in Oak Cliff and have lived here all my life. I’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot, but, as a teacher at W.W. Bushman that year, I recognized the little privilege that I did have just growing up in a different neighborhood, off of Red Bird Lane, when I was working with my students. I really began to understand what poverty looked like.
How did For Oak Cliff come about? It came out of my classroom at Bushman Elementary School. A lot of my students didn’t have backpacks when the school year started. I ended up saying to one of my close friends from growing up, Kenny Reaves, “Man, let’s have us a block party to raise money for backpacks for my class.” He was like, “Cool. What we going to call it?” I was like, “I don’t know, but we going to do it for Oak Cliff.” He said, “So you want to have a block party for Oak Cliff?” I was like, “Yeah. Let’s call it that.” That’s literally how For Oak Cliff happened.
How did the first backpack block party turn out? Another friend, Juliana Bradley, helped me organize. By the end of that summer—the event was August 13, 2015—we had over 1,000 people in Glendale Park, the most beautiful park in Dallas. We partnered with the United Way, Texas Instruments. William’s Chicken donated a lot of chicken to us. A whole lot of chicken. People ate for free. We registered 75 people to vote. We got 10 people employed. We gave out a thousand backpacks to kids. That was the first year.
Has it grown since then? Our goal with the Back to School Festival is voter registration, job fair, college fair, and school supply giveaway. Last year, we had over 3,000 people in the park. We gave away over 2,000 backpacks, fed over 2,000 people, and registered around 200 or so people to vote. We worked with Uber and the Express Job Professionals and got a dozen people employed. I realized, man, if we work together, we can make something happen. And if we listen, if we really listen to the students and to the community and what they want, they are always going to support us when we bring it to them.
Have you expanded beyond the school festival? On Mondays and Wednesdays, we have partnered with El Centro and WorkReadyU to offer GED classes. We currently have 10 parents that come in here to get their GEDs. It’s a two-generation model, so we’re working towards not only teaching the parents, but educating the children as well. Parents can bring their kids and we work with them to reinforce some of the things they are learning at school. We just really want to build a culture of education over here.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges this neighborhood faces? The stat that’s getting thrown around a lot is Dallas has the highest childhood poverty rate. But if you look at where it’s concentrated, this spot is burning up. In this neighborhood, more than 75 percent of children under the age of 5 live below the poverty line. I heard Geoffrey Canada [president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York] say one time—and this was very profound to me—he said he remembers the day that he realized Superman wasn’t coming to save the day. That’s when I realized we’ve really got to do it ourselves.
Why do you think this area of Oak Cliff has become the hottest spot for poverty in Dallas? It’s a systemic issue. Segregation was a very real thing in this community. My grandmother’s from Dallas, too. Once I asked why she didn’t go to W.H. Adamson or Sunset High School, near where she grew up in the Tenth Street Historic District. I asked her one time, “Why did you go to Madison? That’s so far away from where you grew up.” I thought about it right when I asked her. I was like, “Man, segregation. I forgot.” It’s that close in our history. It’s neglect of a community. It’s a lack of resources. Where can people go work over here? People don’t understand. Food deserts are one thing, but job opportunities come along with having a grocery store. You can employ 20 people or more with a grocery store. Not even a Walmart, but just a neighborhood grocery store. A lot of people have been oppressed for so long in so many different ways, but the main thing is that people are starting to see it now and understand it a little bit more. It’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of work from the powers that be within Dallas, as well as from within our own communities. We’re going to have to come together, work together, start loving one another more, and start building a culture of education.
How you think a TRE can help? I think people should have the opportunity to decide what they want for their schools. That’s my whole thing. Let people make the decision because we are underfunded. From a national level, to a state level, to the local level. It’s all the way down. When you look at it, which are the first schools to get hit? How are the first schools going to miss that hall monitor, that urban specialist, or that additional principal? Some schools can be okay without that. They have things like PTAs and booster clubs, a lot of parental involvement. They could thrive still. When we talk about schools that need these resources, that have been at the bottom of the totem pole as far as just about everything, what are we going to do? We have got to make sure we are educating our children. Not only educating them, but giving them the best quality of education possible.
The next DISD Board of Trustees meeting, with presentations of TRE town hall findings, will be Thursday, May 25, 6:00 PM, at the DISD Administration building in the Ada L. Williams Auditorium (3700 Ross Ave.).
British journalist Nick Bilton is set to release a book this month about the hunt for the elusive “Dread Pirate Roberts,” the founder of Silk Road, the Internet black market that traded in guns, drugs, poison, and murder-for-hire. When the identity of Roberts was finally uncovered in 2013 after the founder was embroiled in his own murder-for-hire plot, it turned out that the billion-dollar illegal marketplace was the brainchild of Ross Ulbricht, a 29-year-old University of Texas at Dallas alum
Vanity Fair has published a magazine-sized adapted version of Bilton’s book in its May issue that is well worth a read. Ulbricht, who was convicted of narcotics conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise in 2015, never got to enjoy the success of his wildly successful illegal internet startup. Instead, like many other 20-somethings in Silicon Valley, he lived an anonymous, if perpetually paranoid normal life.
Here’s a taste:
Ulbricht’s quick pivot may seem remarkable, but for some inside the Valley, it fit into a larger paradigm. Once a shy kid from Texas, he had created a platform that was now being used across the world. But unlike Kalanick or, say, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Ulbricht was never going to be on the cover of Fast Company or Forbes. As his business grew, in fact, he was forced to become more reclusive. While Dread Pirate Roberts became the subject of stories in Forbes, Gawker, Techcrunch, and many other sites, Ulbricht operated the Silk Road anonymously from coffee shops and libraries throughout San Francisco. He hung out around Internet cafés, used dating Web sites to meet girls, and mostly kept to himself. He lived modestly in an apartment that he had found on Craigslist; he paid in cash and told his roommates that his name was “Josh,” not Ross. When family and friends wondered what he did on his computer all day, he told some he was trading currency or working on a secret project.
In a way, Ulbricht’s anonymity forced him to double down on his alter ego, Dread Pirate Roberts. The decision to murder Curtis Green was the most chilling example. Not only did Ulbricht willingly commission an $80,000 hit, but he also kept an image of Green, his jowl hanging to the side, in a folder on his computer.
29 Dallas TSA Workers Failed Drug And Alcohol Tests. Between 2010 and 2016, 858 nationwide TSA workers tested positive for drugs or alcohol, according to federal records. Of the 29 Dallas-based workers, 21 were from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and eight were from Dallas Love Field. Employees who fail a drug or alcohol test are fired, an agency spokesperson said.
Jordan Spieth’s First Round at the Masters Unravels. What seemed like a promising afternoon soon derailed when Spieth lost a five-shot lead after a quadruple-bogey. More so, this unfolded on the same back-nine and in a similar fashion as his final round at last year’s Masters.
Arlington ISD Responds to Allegations That Nichols Jr. High is Causing Illness. The district is pushing back against a lawsuit from parents, teachers, and the NAACP who say the campus is causing symptoms such as dizziness and nausea. The district responded, saying they believe the teachers are experiencing “heightened awareness.” Protestors demonstrated outside of AISD’s Thursday night board meeting, calling for an evacuation of the middle school.
Plano Police Arrest a Sword-Wielding, Cape-Clad Man. The department received reports Thursday morning of a man dressed in armor and a cape walking near Independence Parkway and Vidalia Lane, carrying a samurai sword. Officers believe the man has mental health issues, as they were having difficulty communicating with him.
Thousands Are Expected For Sunday’s Dallas Mega March. Organizers hope the demonstration will bring attention to immigration reform and stop discrimination against different cultures. The march will start at 2 p.m. Sunday on Ross Avenue outside the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Participants will march to the plaza outside of Dallas City Hall, where elected officials and activists will speak. Although the march is expected to be “very safe and uneventful,” DPD will have an increased presence.Full Story
DISD’s IT and Procurement Departments Wasted $1 Million. The money was misused by the district’s information technology and procurement departments, according to an external investigation. Staff bypassed competitive bidding for data analysis software and used approved vendors as a “pass-through” for services from an unapproved company. These actions dodged the district’s purchasing policies as well as state law. Although seven district employees have been disciplined, the district is not naming those involved at this time.
Aaron Family Jewish Community Center Evacuated. The North Dallas center was “temporarily closed to access” for about 35 minutes Thursday afternoon. Employees did not share details as to why the center was temporarily closed. Earlier this month, the JCC received threatening phone calls and emails.
Richardson Man Accused of Supporting ISIS. A federal grand jury in Dallas indicted 40-year-old Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim, who is charged with six counts of making false statements to federal agents investigating his alleged support of the terrorist group. The charges stem from comments he made to federal officials earlier this month during a terrorism investigation.
Bikers Accuse Keller’s Drive-In of Discrimination. The restaurant chain is bringing back an old policy that prohibits motorcyclists from eating on the premises. The decision has upset bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts, who have long used the restaurants’ parking lots as destinations for bike and car shows.
Dallas Zoo Welcomes Two New Hippos. The large mammals will be part of the zoo’s $14 million Simmons Hippo Outpost, which is scheduled to open in April. The animals arrived earlier this week, with one coming from Los Angeles and the other from Albuquerque.Full Story
Police and Fire Pension System Introduces PR Campaign. It entails videos of retired and active police officers and firefighters talking about their situation regarding the pension mess. This is in response to Taxpayers for a Fair Pension wanting fixes for the broken pension system that threatens to bring about insolvency.
UNT Chancellor to Retire. Lee Jackson, 67, is announcing his retirement today after 15 years at the helm of the system. “I had no idea my career would come full circle to this place. I could have been an ambassador and traveled, maybe. But really, I never thought I’d live anywhere other than North Texas. I just instinctively know how it works and doesn’t work,” Oak Cliff native Jackson said.
AT&T Resolved 911 Issue. Yesterday, AT&T wireless customers got busy signals when they called 911 throughout North Texas. Last night, said that the issue had been fixed but did not say what caused it in the first place. The FCC chairman tweeted that the commission will investigate the outage.
Marcia Clark Supports Planned Parenthood in Dallas. The O.J. Simpson prosecutor was in Dallas yesterday to be the keynote speaker at the annual Planned Parenthood Dallas awards luncheon. “I think Planned Parenthood is in jeopardy and that means millions of low-income women in particular, their lives, their health, [and] the health of their children is in jeopardy. So, it’s never been a more important time to stand up and be heard,” Clark said.
Mumps Outbreak Growing in Dallas County. The number is now up to 39 cases this year in Dallas County, 30 of which are at Cedar Hill High School.Full Story
John Wiley Price Opening Statements Begin. At 8:30 a.m. this morning, opening statements for Dallas County Commissioner Price’s federal corruption trial will begin. The prosecution will go first, followed by the defense. Dapheny Fain, Price’s longtime assistant, will also be standing trial.
Dallas Disagrees with Texas Over Feral Hogs. State Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller may have made it legal to poison feral hogs in Texas, but the Dallas City Council wants a different solution. Yesterday, by a vote of 14-1, the council voted to pay Striker Outfitters $347,100 throughout the next three years to “humanely trap and remove” hogs in Dallas. The company has completed a 10-month pilot program that has led to the capture of 96 hogs. After hogs are captured, they taken to Frontier Meats in Fort Worth.
Arlington Preschool Teacher Fired for Anti-Semitic Posts. Nancy Salem, who belonged to the University of Texas at Arlington chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, was fired from The Children’s Courtyard for posting several anti-Semitic tweets. Watchdog group Canary Mission reported her comments, along with those of other students. Salem has deleted her social media accounts.Full Story
The Atlantic’s CityLab blog has a fascinating series called “Wastelands,” which reports stories of “what we squander, discard, and fritter away” in our disposable contemporary culture. The latest report, however, isn’t so much about throwing things away, like, say, their photo essay on trinkets found at Dallas estate sales. It is about squandering tax dollars on enormous high school football stadiums.
It’s not the first time the national press has taken notice of what CityLab dubs North Texas’s ISD “arms race.” But CityLab’s report draws a insightful comparison between the money Texas cities spend on buildings versus classrooms, and it wonders why so much money is being spent on football stadiums when the school districts already have stadiums that they can’t even fill-up:
The money for the McKinney project came as part of a $220 million school bond referendum voters passed overwhelmingly in May 2016. Although parts of McKinney are poorer, residents’ $83,000 median household income and present relatively low tax rates make the project seemingly affordable. Here’s the rub, though: It’s not even needed. The new stadium, slated for completion for the 2017 season, will replace existing Ron Poe Stadium, which was renovated just 10 years ago at a cost of $10 million. (The district will keep the old stadium, however.) Poe can accommodate 10,000 spectators. In the 2015 football season, the most recent for which attendance figures were available, paying attendees for each of the three high schools’ home games held at Poe did not exceed 12,000 in total, and no game had even 5,000 total spectators on hand. In other words, Poe stadium was never even half full.
Why would relatively small exurban school districts like McKinney build enormous football stadiums that will sit empty most of the year (and are often less than half-full even on game day)?
The answer, in short, is anticipated population growth in the northern ‘burbs, as well as school financing system that makes it a hell of a lot easier for districts to spend money on buildings than on, well, education:
The structure of the Texas school system also seems to encourage such infrastructure spending. By law, each ISD board has the power to call referendums when they choose to raise bond money. They act and can raise funds separately from their local municipal governments. But the bond money can go only toward construction and renovation of facilities, acquisition of land, and purchase of equipment, not toward expanding education opportunities for students or paying for teachers. (Texas ranks 38th out of 50 states in per-pupil education spending; in McKinney, per-pupil expenditures totaled $7,345 in 2013, compared to a national average of $11,841, according to an Education Week analysis of federal data.)
Testimony Begins in Duntsch Assault Trail. Two of Dr. Christopher Duntsch’s former patients testified against him Thursday, noting the continual pain they now experience. D Magazine examined the neurosurgeon’s background in a November cover story that raised questions about his medical training and chronicled his life after the Texas Medical Board revoked his license to practice. A surgeon who corrected one of Duntsch’s procedures called the result “an atrocity.” Duntsch is criminally charged with harming six patients during surgeries that took place between 2012 and 2013 at four North Texas hospitals. Testimony continues today, and the trial is expected to continue throughout the next three or four weeks. Read Matt Goodman’s recap of the opening arguments here.
Parents, Teachers Want Answers in ‘Mystery’ Illnesses at an Arlington School. The school district says it’s done what it can to inform parents and find the cause of the illnesses. Since September, roughly 60 teachers and students at Nichols Junior High School have experienced symptoms such as nausea, trouble concentrating and dizziness.
West Dallas Tenants Give Housing Plan to Controversial Landlord. In a surprise visit, the residents presented Khraish Khraish, co-owner of HMK, with an eight-point plan outlining ways to keep their housing affordable. The more than 50 tenants who signed the document want HMK to sell the houses at a reasonable price to every tenant who wants to purchase their home. In Khraish’s five-point plan, new houses would replace some of the 305 rental homes his company took off the market last fall. Some lots would be sold to Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. Khraish also wants to build apartment units.
George Takei visits SMU. The activist and author’s lecture was arranged through a partnership between the Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU and the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Takei talked about his time in a Japanese internment camp as a child and his disdain for Trump’s executive order temporarily banning the entrance of immigrants and refugees from select countries. Earlier in the day, he sat down with KERA’s Krys Boyd for an enlightening conversation.Full Story
A Water Gun, Trump, and Instagram Lead to a DISD Teacher’s Suspension. The W.H. Adamson High School teacher was placed on administrative leave Thursday after a video surfaced on social media that shows her shooting a water gun at a projected image of the president while yelling “Die!” The eight-second video was shot in a classroom and was posted to the teacher’s personal Instagram account Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.
More Finger-Pointing, But No Answers. Negotiations to save Dallas’ police and fire pension system collapsed Thursday. Police and fire associations and city leaders criticized one another for not allowing enough of a role in discussions that ended early Wednesday. The conversation was halted at the threshold of an agreement, which would have gone to state legislators in hopes of a solid solution.
DISD Will Protest Vouchers and Rating System. The board of trustees has signed a resolution that challenges the call for school vouchers as well as the A-F ratings bestowed by the Texas Education Agency. The resolution passed 7-2, joining school boards across the state in a collective effort to oppose these concepts.
ISIS Threatens First Baptist Dallas. Earlier this month, an ISIS propaganda publication posted photos of Robert Jeffress’ mega church (and D Magazine World Headquarters neighbor) and suggestions that the building be the target of an arson attack. Officials are taking the threat seriously, although there’s no proof that an attack is in the works.
I Admire This Man’s Level of Pettiness. After receiving a rather large bill and limited answers from the North Texas Tollway Authority, Kenneth Fisher decided to take action (while paying his bill). Fisher dropped off 17,000 pennies, equaling 90 pounds, at the Plano office. Does he feel even slightly guilty? “Not at all. Not at all,” Fisher says. “In fact when everything is said and done, I intend to enjoy me a beer.”Full Story
After my husband and I bought our East Dallas starter home five years ago, we turned our second bedroom into what we called “the stoner’s lounge,” complete with a lava lamp and guitar collection (note: a stiff Manhattan was the hardest thing ever consumed in this lounge because certain substances make my husband’s “legs hurt”). Needless to say, we had no idea that we would soon be trading out the low-slung love seat for a Jenny Lind crib. Our neighborhood’s schools did not play into our purchase in the slightest.
So, as I’ve been watching the debate over the new Texas Education Agency’s A-to-F campus grading system play out, I realized that I still have no idea what my son will be stepping into in when he starts kindergarten in a year-and-a-half. In fact, I don’t even know what I should be asking. How do I determine if a school is good for my kid, and how helpful are these grades for house hunters and parents?
Looking at the TEA’s preliminary grades, I see that my school, Hexter Elementary, earned three B’s and one C—which doesn’t look fantastic to someone like me, someone who’s never seen a C on a report card except for one time in fourth grade P.E. class because field day is bullshit. But as I’ve asked around, at this point it seems no one really understands what these grades mean. And that’s one of the reasons why school administrators are currently in full-on freak-out mode.
Highland Park ISD, via spokesman Jon Dahlander, has been especially vocal in the campaign against the grading scale. “If you were a pilot and your plane is up in the air, does that mean you deserve an ‘A’? Well, not if it’s heading downward at 500 miles an hour,” says Dahlander. “There’s a number of indicators a pilot is looking at—gauges in the cockpit that will give them altitude or the amount of fuel or how the engines are running. All of those things go into determining how a plane is running and the same is true for a school. To try to boil that down to a single grade is a disservice to the schools and districts themselves.”
So I asked Dahlander, if the single grade isn’t going to give me the full picture, what should I, the parent, be looking at? He pointed me to the Texas Academic Performance Reports, where I can scroll through 12 pages of info on each school. What I look for depends on what I value, he says. On the Hexter report, I see the school received five distinctions last year, including one in academic achievement in English/Language arts/Reading. There’s also the STAAR percentages, attendance rates, average class size, and the number of teachers with masters, among other info.
Coming across Rob Thornell’s story is also enlightening. The Northwest ISD assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction wrote a much-shared post about his kids’ amazing experiences at schools that, according to last week’s grades, are failing campuses. I asked him the same question. If the TEA grades aren’t to be trusted, what should I look for? STAAR scores? That’s what the popular website GreatSchools bases its ratings on.
“Rarely, if ever, have I had parents say they look at the test scores,” says Thornell. “More often they ask about the programs that they offer, things like do they have orchestra? Do you teach Spanish or art at the elementary level? What is your gifted and talent program like? Athletics? Fine arts?”
My son’s future principal, Dr. Jennifer Jackson of Hexter Elementary, says that walking the school grounds will give me far more information than a letter grade and even a 12-page report. She recommends coming to one of the new parent meetings held the first Tuesday of every month and says she’s always happy to meet with people interested in moving to the neighborhood.
Some questions she suggests parents consider: What is the typical day like for a kid? Are they allowed to move around? Do they have a choice in what they learn? Is the building well maintained? How are the students taught to read? “Those are things that are hard to quantify,” says Jackson.
Indeed, nowhere in the TAPR report is there mention of Hexter’s school garden, wobble chairs for wiggle-worms, or the high level of PTA involvement. That’s the kind of stuff I’d have to investigate on my own, and it also happens to be the stuff that piques my parental interest.
So, as appealing as it may be to slack off and trust the TEA grades, it seems that, still, the best way to check out my son’s school is to do my homework.Full Story
A scary moment for Carine Feyten of Texas Woman’s University was “jumping off the Great Wall of China over a deep valley attached to a flimsy zip-line.” Michael Sorrell of Paul Quinn College says the bands on heavy rotation on his iPhone include Public Enemy, Adele, and Stevie Wonder. And Parkland’s Frederick Cerise reveals, “I iron my own shirts while listening to KERA in the morning. I can cut you with the crease.”
For the second straight year, the editors of D CEO Magazine have identified the 500 most influential business executives in Dallas-Fort Worth in a special, standalone publication called the Dallas 500. For easy reference, all 500 executives have been listed alphabetically in more than 60 different categories.
D CEO will put all 500 profiles online during the coming weeks, and this week’s selection includes leaders in Education and Healthcare like Feyten, Sorrell, and Cerise. To read fascinating facts about everyone in this grouping, please click on their photos here. If you’d like to view the full list of names and companies for the Dallas 500, please click here.Full Story
Affluenza Teen’s Mom Might be Jailed Again. Tonya Couch, Ethan’s mother, awaits trial for charges of helping Ethan flee to Mexico to evade arrest. She has been on bond but was caught drinking alcohol Friday, violating the conditions of her bond, which Tarrant County authorities are trying to revoke.
Person of Interest Identified in Deep Ellum Sexual Assault. The assault was reported Sunday near a DART station on the east edge of Deep Ellum. The person of interest is described as a 5-foot-6 Hispanic man with glasses and tattoos on both arms. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward if someone gives police information that leads to an arrest.
Dallas School Bus Board Votes to Investigate Finances. Yesterday the board approved $90,000 for an independent audit that will look into business deals and finances to find out the source of the agency’s financial troubles. The board hopes the investigation will be done in time for voters to take notice this fall when they decide the fate of the agency. “Until we know what went wrong, there’s no way we can fix it. We have to get to the bottom of this,” said DCS board president Gloria Tercero Levario.
Baby Giraffe Tsavo Will Meet the Public Today at Dallas Zoo. The calf—who was the long-awaited result of giraffe Katie’s live-streamed pregnancy—was born last month but will be introduced to the public today in the giraffe feeding yard. After that he’ll be making regular appearances outdoors.Full Story
The University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law has been granted provisional approval for accreditation from the American Bar Association after initially being denied accreditation last fall.
The ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar announced its decision on June 3 following a positive recommendation from the ABA Accreditation Committee and a review of documents and testimony provided by UNT.
The provisional approval means that the school’s progress will be closely monitored by the ABA, which will determine whether the school should receive full accreditation. Provisional accreditation gives the school and its graduates all of the rights and recognition of a fully approved law school, according to the ABA. But UNT will have to wait at least three more years before it can gain full accreditation, assuming it meets all the standards set by ABA. In years two and four the ABA will visit the school for a full evaluation.
“Our goal has always been to equip graduates with practice-ready competencies and the practical knowledge to pass the Texas Bar Exam,” the school’s Founding Dean Royal Furgeson said in a release. “We now have a clear path to demonstrate that the innovative curriculum and the resources we’ve established will support exactly that kind of success.”
The positive recommendation came less than a year after the ABA denied the school accreditation in August 2016. The ABA released its initial recommendation alongside a 21-page report, citing concerns about the school’s admissions policies and financial conditions. The school was given the opportunity to respond to the negative recommendation—both with a written response and in an October hearing before the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Furgeson felt good about the school’s chances before the ABA Council. A number of new law schools have faced similar situations to UNT Dallas College of Law—initially denied provisional accreditation, only to win accreditation later on, according to a D CEO article published in October.
On May 20, the school held its first Juris Doctor hooding ceremony for 74 students of the inaugural class. The graduates are the first to come out of the first public law school in Dallas.
Founded in 2013, the UNT Dallas College of Law offers legal education to the increasingly diverse population of Dallas-Fort Worth. According to UNT-Dallas, nearly 52 percent of its law students in September 2015 were minorities (21 percent were Hispanic, and 20 percent were African-American). Last year, the school opened two community lawyering centers in downtown Dallas and in Fair Park, where students can practice meeting the legal needs of underrepresented communities.
Now, in its third year, the school has attracted students from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and life experiences—as well as garnered support from the Dallas legal community.
UNT System Chancellor Lee F. Jackson commended the school for its “new and innovative approach to legal education.”
“To its credit, the ABA Council viewed our application from that perspective,” Jackson said in a release. “Now we can focus on serving Dallas, the region, and the entire state with a low-cost, high-quality, practice-oriented legal education that will support economic growth and opportunity for a broad and diverse and talented group of law students.”Full Story
Dallas County Schools is in trouble. After the agency responsible for busing 75,000 students in 12 North Texas school districts lost millions on a stop-arm camera program (What do you mean people don’t pay tickets?), the Texas House Committee on Public Education voted to dissolve it. Meanwhile, a $25 million sale-leaseback of land used to park buses is expected to cost Dallas County taxpayers millions more in the long run. Then DCS Board President Larry Duncan stepped down amid allegations that his campaign profited from the land deal. Tonight, NBC 5 will air a 30-minute investigative report at 6:30 p.m. schooling us on who orchestrated the deal, who profited from it, and how much more it will cost taxpayers.Full Story
Kenneth Amyx Sentenced to Life for Killing Girlfriend. Amyx had alleged that it was a failed murder-suicide pact with his girlfriend Jennifer Streit-Spears, but state district judge Scott Becker sentenced him to life in prison yesterday. During the sentencing phase, Amyx claimed that he was God and that Jennifer visited him in his jail cell each night.
Dallas City Council Removes DART Board Member. The council voted 10-5 yesterday to remove DART board vice chair Richard Carrizales in the middle of his two-year term. The decision was supposedly about creating stronger representation on the board, not due to the fact that Carrizales voted back in October to fund the Cotton Belt rail line.
Frisco Robbers Used Grindr to Target Hate-Crime Victims. Four Frisco men were indicted yesterday on the charges of federal hate crime and conspiracy. They used the dating app Grindr to pass themselves off as gay men and would arrange to meet at the victims’ homes. The men would then assault and restrain the victims and make derogatory comments regarding their sexual orientation. They then stole items from the victims. Absolutely awful.
DISD Will Offer Retention Bonuses for Teachers. At a board briefing today, officials will present proposed changes to Teacher Excellence Initiative, DISD’s teacher evaluation and merit pay system. One of those changes is a retention raise for its best teachers.
Storms Likely Today. They could move through the area this afternoon.Full Story
I am the product of an entirely public school education: elementary school, high school, college, law school. Granted, it was mostly a white, upper-middle-class public. But still.
My grandmother was a public school special education and gym teacher. A half-century later, several of her former special education students attended her funeral. My mother was a public school art and English teacher until the day she died. Her students and coworkers turned the funeral home receiving room into a replica of her classroom, complete with her colorful collection of toys, posters, art supplies, and Ray Bradbury books. After a brief stint as a park ranger, my sister, too, heeded the sacred call, becoming a junior high art teacher in a public school in Colorado.
I get that our public education system is broken. My sister, who is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever met, finally quit when her lower income school district forced her to take more students than she could effectively supervise and educate. But last night, my faith was renewed in the flawed system that raised me.
I attended the first annual Mayor’s Cup, a high school debate competition organized by the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance and hosted by Mayor Mike Rawlings and Harlan Crow in the debate chamber at Old Parkland. Modeled after Monticello, the place is insanely spectacular and Harry Potterish, with carved owls, Greek columns, and Latin quotations on the wood-paneled walls. (If you ever have a chance to attend an event there, go; the next event should be the Miller Center’s rousing discussion of President Trump’s First 100 Days on May 3.)
Four DISD students were tasked with using a cross-examination debate structure to address the question: do education vouchers leave the neediest children behind?
Kathy Nguyen (North Dallas High School) and Victor Pena (Thomas Jefferson High School) represented the affirmative team, while Ricardo Rodriguez (W.T. White High School) and Sophie Rahman (Science and Engineering Magnet) represented the negative side.
The four students were remarkable. Polished, with significantly better posture and public speaking composure than myself, they passionately argued their respective cases.
The pro-voucher team argued that private schools are more “efficient” than public, choice is good, and the Trumpian public-schools-couldn’t-be-any-worse-so-what-have-you-got-to-lose. The anti-voucher team argued that market competition fails when it comes to education, and that if even more funds are sucked out of the public school system by vouchers, it will just perpetuate the divide between rich and well-educated and poor and poorly educated, because no one is going to build quality, private schools in the private school deserts of Oak Cliff and South Dallas.
When challenged on cross examination with the question, “Who is going to pay for private schools in South Dallas?” Rodriguez replied, without hesitation, “The people in this audience,” getting a big—but wry—laugh from the assembled attorneys, hedge fund managers, civic leaders (including Council Member Sandy Greyson, in addition to Mayor Rawlings), and corporate executives.
At the end of the night, the judges (Dallas Urban Debate founder Craig Budner, attorney Leon Carter, AT&T VP Angela Ross, and Anne Wicks, Director of Education Reform at the George W. Bush Institute) all enthusiastically praised the competitors. The one point I took issue with was the group’s emphasis of Rahman’s “charming” smile. While it was, indeed, charming, it demeaned Rahman’s true strength—her oratorical mastery. And it begged the question why no one complimented Pena on his equally charming and show-stopping coiffure.
The judges ended up deciding 3-1 in favor of the anti-voucher team, while the audience decided 38-34 in favor of the pro-voucher team.
Anne Wicks was left with the final word. She noted that although both teams did an amazing job, she, on principle, could not find for the team that cited research by the NEA. She preferred the research of Dan Patrick and the Heritage Foundation. And Rahman’s smile.
I would have liked Rahman to have had the last word. And to hear not her practiced and assigned argument, but what she really thought about the future of public school education. Because that young woman is going somewhere.Full Story
In the interest of brevity and laziness, the show notes on this episode of EarBurner are as follows: DISD trustee Miguel Solis stopped by the Old Monk to talk about his flag football prowess, why he decided not to challenge Pete Sessions for his District 32 seat, what the jurors in the John Wiley Price trial might do, his superhero doctor wife, and Strong Schools Strong Dallas, which is a new coalition that is advocating for a tax ratification election to save DISD. Oh, also, Charles Glover, a previous EarBurner guest and Harvard classmate of Solis’, made a brief appearance. Plus Eric Celeste. It was an action-packed podcast. Stream it through the player below or use whatever dang podcatcher you prefer.Full Story
DART Approves Resolution Opposing Plan to Use Money for Pension Fund. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit board approved a resolution yesterday that opposes Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs’ plan to use DART funds to help the Dallas Police and Fire Pension fund. The board believes that the plan might not be legal and could hinder DART’s being able to pay bond debt. Griggs wants to use one-eighth of DART’s sales tax revenue to aid the pension fund, which is in bad shape, and he wants it to be on a November ballot for voters to decide.
Butt Injection Woman Convicted of Murder. Yesterday, Denise “Wee Wee” Ross was convicted of murder and practicing medicine without a license. She had given a fatal butt injection to a client and also carried out two more procedures while awaiting trial. Punishment is being deliberated today.
Irving ISD Didn’t Show Support for Unauthorized Immigrant Students. At Monday night’s board meeting, Irving ISD trustees voted against the resolution designating campuses as “welcome and safe” and providing a “safe environment where all are treated equally regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or disability.” Other Texas cities, including Dallas, have recently passed such resolutions.
Storms Move Through D-FW. Powerful thunderstorms moved through the area last night, and there was even a tornado warning in Tarrant and Denton counties. A lot of people lost power. A lot of streets have closures. At about 2:30 a.m., I sat bolt upright when deafening thunder woke me up and couldn’t go back to sleep for an hour.Full Story
Paul Quinn College in South Dallas has become the first historically black college and university to be named a “Work College” by the U.S. Department of Education.
The new designation will help Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn, achieve his goal of creating a national system of work programs based on the Paul Quinn model. “We’re the first urban work college in the country,” said Sorrell, who was notified about the designation on March 2o. “Our goal is to expand this program to other cities.”
Sorrell said he plans to share the model with other colleges in urban areas that could benefit, solely for the sake of improving those communities. Sorrell is also considering opening branches of Paul Quinn in other cities. “We’re going to be malleable in terms of which format that takes,” he said about the expansion of the program. “But the goal is to create a system of urban work colleges.”
Four years ago, faith-based Paul Quinn introduced a work program based on a broad network of off-campus partners offering industry training opportunities to students. The new urban college model provides a low-cost, structured work program where students can learn new skills and receive coaching and evaluation from experts in their chosen fields, Sorrell said. The program requires students to work 10 to 20 hours a week and has helped reduce student tuition by $10,000. Employers not only pay students for their work, but also help fund tuition. Companies supporting the program include J.C. Penney, Oncor, and PepsiCo.
Paul Quinn’s student body consists of about 450 students, 78 percent of them black and nearly 20 percent Hispanic, according to numbers provided in November. The school shares the federal Work College designation with eight other universities.
Graduates of the work program help strengthen the local workforce and benefit from a competitive edge over their peers, Sorrell said. Similar colleges may have some version of this program, but they lack the industry access Paul Quinn students have because these schools are located in mostly rural areas, he added.Full Story
I had a giant collection of Dr. Seuss books when I was a kid. The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, The Sneetches. I read and reread and reread them until I had some of them completely memorized. Those books taught me how to read.
Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, otherwise known as National Read Across America Day, or, in North Texas, Dr. Seuss Reading Day spearheaded by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Volunteers are reading to students in more than 700 classrooms today throughout North Texas. If you can’t volunteer, donate a book or two. If you don’t have a book to donate, go buy a donated book and start reading.Full Story
City Council Debates Approach on Tackling Homelessness. On Tuesday, Mayor Rawlings and County Judge Clay Jenkins introduced a cross-jurisdictional partnership that would observe how social services and nonprofits are dealing with homelessness. However, some council members said yesterday that they would prefer to leave the county out of it and keep this as a city issue. City Manager T.C. Broadnax said city staff should already be employing the measures that the partnership would espouse. The council will likely decide on the issue in March.
Police and Fire Pension Settles Lawsuit with Former Real Estate Advisers. The pension and CDK Realty Advisors have agreed to drop all claims because they “have now resolved their differences.” Except that, according to pension system attorneys, CDK is partly responsible for the awful state that the pension is currently in. But, yeah, everything’s good.
Dallas Pimp Convicted by Jury. 33-year-old Martavious Detrel Banks Keys was convicted by a federal jury yesterday on multiple sex trafficking counts, including child sex trafficking. His sentencing is set for June, and he faces 15 years to life in prison. In 2015, he had forced two girls, 14 and 15, to work as prostitutes, and used violence and drugs to keep them in his control. Heinous. The two girls escaped separately, within a month of each other.
Interim CFO for Dallas County Schools Resigns. Alan King, who was hired to help fix the bus agency’s financial issues, resigned yesterday. King did not provide a reason for resigning.Full Story
Yesterday, I attended a discussion of economic issues for women in Texas, put on by the Dallas Women’s Foundation and hosted at Texas Woman’s University over in the medical district. The speakers and panelists included DWF President and CEO Roslyn Dawson Thompson, TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Carine Feyten, Center for Public Policy Priorities‘ Dr. Frances Deviney, and Terry Conner—former managing partner at Haynes & Boone, former chairman of the Dallas AfterSchool network, and on the Dallas Regional Chamber board of directors. There were a lot of bar charts and numbers relating to four pertinent areas: child care, education, health insurance, and housing.
The goal was not only to educate on how the situation for women (and minority women especially) needs to be improved in these sectors, but also to provide ways that we can actually start doing that. For housing, cities like Dallas can, for example, pass ordinances protecting low-income renters who use vouchers (most of whom are women) from housing discrimination. For health insurance, Texas can give grants to community organizations that help women navigate health coverage options. To ensure that more women who enroll in college actually graduate, there can be subsidies for dual enrollment courses and increased grant aid. And regarding child care, in order to close the wage gap and allow more women to stay in the work force, public-private partnerships can be created to increase subsidized child care funding.
This was just the tip of the iceberg, but one thing that stood out to me most was that in a study of 100% of 8th grade girls enrolled in 2005, only 34% of white females, only 17% of Hispanic females, and only 16% of African American females earned a four-year higher ed degree. The other issues of housing, health insurance, and child care are all affected by education first, and this is what needs to be prioritized locally, particularly in light of the current political state of disarray. As this begins to shift, a growing number of female voices and perspectives will influence these very issues, as Dr. Feyten said, and, according to Terry Conner, it will further enable local businesses to advocate for equity and social justice.Full Story
T.C. Broadnax Starts as City Manager Today. The former Tacoma, Washington, city manager has plenty to keep him busy during his first day on the job as Dallas City Manager.
Irving Mayor Dismissed from Defamation Suit. Beth Van Duyne was dismissed yesterday from the lawsuit filed by Ahmed Mohamed’s father after the boy was detained in 2015 for taking a homemade clock to school that staff mistook for a bomb. Ahmed’s father agreed to remove the mayor from the suit.
Dallas County Schools Will Cut Jobs. Up to 100 jobs could be cut because the bus contractor is $42 million behind budget forecasts. Interim CFO Alan King said yesterday that revenue had been significantly overstated. It’s unclear where the jobs will be cut from.
Skip Fletcher, R.I.P. Neil “Skip” Fletcher of famed Fletcher’s Corny Dogs at The State Fair of Texas has died at age 82 after a battle with pneumonia. Skip’s father and uncle first introduced the corny dogs to the fair in 1942, and Skip and his late brother took over in the late 1980s. This year, it would have been his 75th anniversary at the fair.Full Story
Dallas Police and Fire Pension May Allow Withdrawals Once Again. On Thursday, the board system disclosed a new (and complicated) policy regarding the withdrawals, which have threatened the longevity of the fund. The plan was immediately labeled unfair by retirees and received objections from city council members. State District Judge Tonya Parker will decide Tuesday whether or not to allow, or continue blocking, the withdrawals.
Dallas Police Are Looking For a Hit-And-Run Driver in Oak Cliff. Joey Salas, 42, faces a possible double amputation of both legs, which were severely injured after a driver in a pickup truck ran over him and fled as he was crossing 12th Street and Adams in his motorized wheelchair Wednesday night. Salas is known around Oak Cliff as an advocate for the disabled as well as for his involvement in the Tejano music scene.
DISD Admin Suggests Overhaul of Bond Program. During a Thursday board briefing, Scott Layne, DISD’s new chief operations officer, offered a new perspective of the $1.6 billion bond program. Layne’s most notable recommendation, which the board of trustees will vote on Jan. 26, includes a transition away from the three project management firms overseeing DISD’s 2015 bond projects, forcing the construction services department to handle the work internally. The response to his proposal was split.
Cooler, Rainy Weather Ahead. Don’t expect fickle snow flurries like last Friday, but keep an umbrella on hand throughout the weekend. Most of the rain should come after 7 p.m. Sunday.Full Story
Planned Parenthood Faces Court Battle. The organization is trying to make sure that low-income Texas women will still have healthcare access now that it’s been removed from Medicaid. There’s also an ongoing investigation from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said yesterday that he “stands ready to defend any challenge by Planned Parenthood to their termination.” Planned Parenthood Texas Votes Executive Director Yvonne Gutierrez said the group will fight its removal in the court system with a lawsuit pending against Texas. “This is not over, and we will leave no stone unturned to protect access to care,” Gutierrez said.
FBI Looking for Dallas Bank Robber. Last week, a man robbed four banks across Dallas and University Park—banks at Cedar Springs, Lovers Lane, Northwest Highway, and Mockingbird Lane—and pointed a gun at tellers in two instances. The FBI called the man “armed and dangerous” and is on the hunt for him.
DISD Awarded More Than $1 Million in State Grants. Yesterday, it was announced that DISD is one of the 16 recipients of a Texas Industry Cluster Innovative Academies grant for its early collegiate academies that provide college credit and associate degrees for tech and science jobs. Adamson, North Dallas, and Kimball all received funding, and DISD is adding more collegiate academies for the 2017-18 school year. DeSoto and Grand Prairie schools also received funding.
It’ll Be a Wet Christmas, but Not a White One. It’s officially winter now, but it’s warmer than it was this past weekend. And for Christmas this Sunday, temperatures are expected to reach 71 degrees with thunderstorms. Probably won’t need to turn on the heat.Full Story
The University of North Texas Dallas Law School has been granted a reprieve. The American Bar Association decided yesterday to give it a second chance and passed the issue of accreditation back to the bar committee for further review. This is important because if a law school is not accredited, its students cannot take the bar exam. And if students can’t take the bar exam, they can’t become attorneys. And if they can’t become attorneys, they’ve just acquired student loan debt for no real reason, except to be able to explain International Shoe at cocktail parties. And no one wants to hear about International Shoe.
The school’s accreditation has been at risk because the ABA is concerned in part about the school’s “lenient” admission policies, which refers to the fact that UNT’s median LSAT score for incoming students is 146. The median LSAT score at the University of Texas, one of the top law schools in the country, is 167. Interestingly, the average LSAT score for students at all accredited law schools is around 150. But while that number seems to be holding steady over the past decade, according to the National Conference on Bar Examiners, national bar passage rates have dropped from 79 percent in 2007 to 74 percent in 2014. So it seems logical that if you drop the LSAT score for incoming students, you’re going to have even fewer students pass the bar. Which starts to sound like you’re letting students in to take their money under the false impression that they will come out with a law license. In that respect, the ABA has a valid point. There are too many law students nationwide and not enough law jobs these days. There are 95,000 licensed attorneys in the state of Texas, more than twice the number of doctors.
But UNT also has a valid point. There’s an under-served population out there that wants affordable legal services. They want cheap wills, and guardianships, and uncontested divorces, and revised custody agreements. They want to incorporate businesses, and evict problem tenants, and get their landlord to turn their heat on, and get rid of traffic tickets. We need defense attorneys and prosecutors and Legal Aid attorneys, who work for the public good and not the pay. Lawyers who have spent six figures and more on a law school education often can’t afford to do that work even if they wanted to. So there’s a need for an affordable legal education, with flexible hours for people who already have day jobs, that offers opportunities to students who may not have had the resources to take multiple Barbri courses (I just looked it up and gasped out loud—they cost more than $2,700 a pop now, almost as much as I paid for a semester of law school at the best state law school in Ohio in 1994).
Fifty-eight Dallas county judges agree. They submitted an article to the Dallas Morning News a few weeks ago.
In many instances, these aspiring lawyers are pursuing their degrees as a second profession. They may be military veterans, police officers, teachers or small business owners. Many are people of color, often among the first in their families to attend college and certainly the first to aspire to the law. More than a few are already in their 30s, a decade older than the typical law student. They bring life experiences grounded in the real world and not just academia. Most don’t seem as interested in a career dictated by big-name firms and high-profile clients, and they won’t be forced down that path just because of the cost of their education. They seem more driven to serve in the public sector, or to simply return to their occupations and businesses armed with new knowledge and skills based in the law.
The term affordable is, of course relative. The $16,000 annual fees at UNT sound pricey until you compare that with $50,000 at SMU. But even more than affordability, and a diverse student body, UNT’s mission needs to focus on one thing. Make that two things. 1) Ensuring that their students pass the bar so that they can actually enter the profession. And 2) doing everything they can to provide internship opportunities and viable paths to employment.
The proof will be in the pudding. The school, and the ABA, owe the first round of students the opportunity to show how effective the school’s program has been. Let them take the bar in May, and then decide.