Dallas business leaders have taken great interest in the city’s public schools of late. In 2011, the city’s school board elections were canceled for lack of interest; the next year, business moguls like Container Store co-founder Garrett Boone and real estate developer Harlan Crow spent thousands on favored candidates who formed a new nucleus on the school board. Former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings spoke often about school reform in his 2011 campaign for mayor, and after he won, he recommended the school district consider an ambitious but little-known school reformer named Mike Miles as its next superintendent. With support from those new school board members, Miles got the job.
The business leaders’ sudden concern for Dallas schools mirrors a trend that’s been sweeping American cities: local donors and national foundations leveraging their fortunes to dislodge stubborn problems like low graduation rates, stagnant test scores and bureaucratic bloat. Dallas is a relative latecomer to this trend, and while Superintendent Miles has talked big about reform, the district has so far only nibbled at the edges.
Now the city could be on the verge of one giant leap into the thick of America’s school reform debate, with the announcement in March of an effort by business leaders to convert the entire Dallas Independent School District into a charter school.
If you think that sounds bizarre, you’re not alone…