Dallas TX Jan 9 2018 The complicated winding down of the embattled Dallas schools bus-service provider moved forward Monday with the layoff of 17 police officers.
Dallas County Schools provided commissioned police officers, called school resource officers, for three area districts: Duncanville, Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Teague. But now that the agency is being disbanded, they all have to go. The state-appointed committee overseeing the shutdown of DCS does not have the legal authority to operate a police department, said acting DCS CEO Alan King.
The last day on the job for the officers will be Jan. 31.
The disbandment committee has agreed to sell 27 pistols to a wholesaler.
Some DCS police officers may be hired in the districts where they were assigned by DCS.
“We hope that they will,” Mike Moses, chair of the dissolution committee and a former DISD superintendent, said Monday at a DCS trustees meeting. “I think good people will have the opportunity to work in these situations.”
Carrollton-Farmers Branch hopes to retain the officers who were working at its schools but will reassign them as security guards. Duncanville is exploring a way to keep its as commissioned police officers through an agreement with Mansfield ISD, which has its own police force.
The committee will ask Dallas ISD to pick up the tab for three officers who will work out of DCS’ headquarters to provide security and work traffic incidents. DISD trustees would have to approve.
DCS used to have a larger police force but cut many officers last February when the previous, elected board of trustees was trying to get a handle on the agency’s growing financial mess.
Eventually, the dissolution committee will cut all 2,450 jobs in DCS. Voters decided to abolish the countywide agency that was largely tasked with providing busing to area districts. DCS is set to cease operations on July 31.
But first, the committee will go to court this week to face City of Dallas officials over school crossing guards. DCS intends to stop running its program — which includes 388 crossing guards — at the end of January. The city has filed a legal challenge to keep them from discontinuing the program.
State law says cities over a certain size must provide school crossing guards. The City of Dallas had done so before turning over those duties to DCS.
Officials at both DCS and the city say they don’t have enough money to run the program.
King said the agency is struggling to pay bills long enough to keep buses running for the rest of the school year. City Council members have said they want DCS to run the program until the end of the school year, then have Dallas ISD take it over or partner with the county to levy a fee that could cover the nearly $5 million it costs to run the program.
DISD officials say they won’t pay for it.
On Monday, Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, issued a statement urging the City of Dallas and other stakeholders to use volunteers for the crossing-guard program rather than implement new fees or taxes to cover the cost. State law allows the county to implement a $1.50 fee on county vehicle registration that can be used for a Child Safety Trust Fund, which could include paying for the program.
Huffines, who pushed for the legislation that triggered the election killing DCS, said other communities across the country enlist volunteers for the work, as well as using older students to serve as crossing guards. He said Dallas could also turn to churches, PTAs and other community groups for help in recruiting volunteers, performing background checks and conducting training.
“I’m confident that we can achieve the dual goals of student safety and taxpayer responsibility,” Huffines said in a statement.
Last week, council members discussed their frustration and surprise with potentially being on the hook for millions as DCS goes away.
Moses said committee officials were surprised by the city’s legal challenge.
“I think all of us that were asked to serve on this committee understand that there could be further unintended consequences with regard to any number of matters from the former DCS organization,” he said. “We’re just trying to work through them as expeditiously as we can.”