Dallas voters have plenty of complaints about Dallas ISD. It’s poorly run. It wastes tax dollars. It’s both inefficient and inept at educating Dallas’ children. And its trustees spend too much time posturing and pandering to actually do anything about these problems.
But come Election Day each year, these complaints are drowned out by a chorus of apathetic silence.
On May 9, voters who live in District 1, which encompasses most of the Preston Hollow/North Dallas area, will have the chance to choose between Edwin Flores and Kyle Renard to replace DISD Trustee Elizabeth Jones, who is not seeking a second term.
And if every registered voter who lives in Northaven Park takes the time to visit the polls that day, that one small neighborhood could decide who will represent us on the board.
More than 92,000 people of voting age live in District 1. Roughly 66,000 of them are registered to vote. Yet in 2012, when the incumbent, Flores, decided to step down, and four candidates vied to replace him, only 4,069 people showed up at the polls. Jones garnered a little more than half of those votes, meaning that roughly 2,000 people determined the election.
To break that down, 3 percent of voters elected one of nine trustees who manage a school district that educates 160,000 of our students and has an annual budget of $1.6 billion, funded by Dallas taxpayers. And District 1 had, by far, the highest number of voters in the three DISD elections that year.
This apparent lack of concern, however, means that one small segment of the population truly can sway the outcome of the race. The stakes are high, and we are Ohio.
Withers Elementary sits almost in the center of Northaven Park. It was one of our neighborhood’s best kept secrets until recent years, when it became more of an open secret, attracting parents who were planning on going the typical Preston Hollow private school route until friends and neighbors convinced them otherwise. Now they’re singing its praises and appealing to the lottery gods that their children land one of the coveted spots in the school’s dual-language program.
Living in an “it” school zone is a boon for parents but also for property owners. As the Dallas real estate market shows, popular schools drive up home prices. How the DISD board operates and what kinds of decisions it makes (or doesn’t make) affect the success of Withers as well as other neighborhood schools’ potential to become “it” schools.
Northaven Park comprises only a small chunk of Withers boundaries, but on its streets live approximately 2,000 registered voters — roughly equal to the voters who determined the 2012 election’s outcome. So if neighbors believed that casting ballots is a useful way to voice their opinions about DISD, they could almost singlehandedly choose the trustee for District 9’s 116,000 residents.
That’s how few people vote in Dallas ISD elections.
It’s not likely to happen. In 2012 only about 200 Northaven Park residents took time to vote, and it was the same story in 2009, the last time Flores and Renard faced off.
But if it did happen — if a couple thousand more voters in Preston Hollow and North Dallas turned out in force May 9 — it would decide the election.
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