Dallas Board To Rehire All But 40 of 257 Laid-Off Teachers

By Ann Bradley — September 18, 1991 2 min read

The Dallas school board last week approved a plan to rehire all but 40 of the 257 teachers whose dismissal had sparked a series of demonstrations by disgruntled students.

But the school board rejected a proposal by Superintendent of Schools Marvin Edwards to raise the property-tax rate another half percentage point, which would have generated enough money to hire back all of the pink-slipped teachers.

In response to the district’s loss of $47 million in state aid under Texas’ new school-finance plan, the school beard earlier had voted to increase taxes 17.5 percent. But board members at that time balked at raising taxes even more in order to prevent the layoffs.

The layoffs, which coincided with the opening of school in Dallas, caused chaos in the high schools and prompted angry students to march on the district administration building. (See Education Week, Sept. 11, 1991 .)

Shortly after the protests erupted, Mr. Edwards said that he had identified $2.3 million in unspent money from construction bonds that could be added to the budget, thus enabling the district to rehire 68 teachers.

To bring back the rest, the school board voted last week to cut several central-office positions; reduce the budget for consulting services, travel, and the purchase of equipment and vehicles; and limit the amount spent to feed board members on nights when they have meetings.

Some of the teachers will be rehired as permanent substitutes, while others will fill positions that had been left vacant or that were to have gone to new teachers who did not show up for the beginning of the year, according to Rodney Davis, the district’s director of information services.

A ‘Deplorable Situation’

The school board made its decisions during a meeting attended by an estimated 1,000 teachers, students, parents, and other Dallas taxpayers. The raucous event featured attacks on the state’s new court-ordered finance plan, tears from students, and complaints from angry teachers.

During the meeting, Mr. Edwards “lashed out” at board members, according to Mr. Davis, and noted that he had recommended raising taxes 25 percent to make up for the revenue loss but had been opposed by the beard.

In his presentation, which included visual depictions of the large tax hikes adopted by neighboring municipalities, the superintendent called the uproar over the layoffs “the most traumatic, public, deplorable situation I have ever personally experienced.”

The beard’s 6-to-3 vote not to raise taxes again also was divided along racial lines, with the three African-American members of the beard providing the only votes in favor of the increase.

That split provoked allegations of racism from black members of the board, who charged that white taxpayers in Dallas were reluctant to pay more for the education of the district’s largely minority students.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the Classroom Teachers of Dallas challenging the procedure by which the teachers were laid off is still pending, Mr. Davis said.

The district maintains that it carried out the layoffs in strict accordance with its own policies.

A version of this article appeared in the September 18, 1991 edition of Education Week as Dallas Board To Rehire All But 40 of 257 Laid-Off Teachers