The move to scrap the countywide agency came after several reports by NBC5 on questionable business dealings, political contributions and financial challenges. There were also reports of bus drivers running red lights and running late to schools.
The countywide agency provides transportation, technology and other services to the area districts who are its clients.
During the House committee’s hearing on the bill Tuesday, Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, repeatedly suggested to Mullins that she quickly get to the bottom of Dallas County Schools’ financial and business dealings. He asked why she didn’t get answers from former superintendent Rick Sorrells, who Gooden said was obligated to help the agency under the terms of his separation agreement.
“At some point, people are going to start to think that maybe you do have answers but you just don’t want to share them,” Gooden said to Mullins. “If the public doesn’t get answers, they’re not going to quit asking questions.”
Mullins noted that sometimes the public isn’t getting answers to the questions she’s asking as well.
“I can promise you, nothing I have done in the last seven weeks has shown that I don’t want to know,” said Mullins, who took over when Sorrells abruptly retired in March.
The hearing grew tense again when Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa became visibly frustrated at suggestions that his support of the bill was part of a “power grab.” DISD is by far the biggest Dallas County Schools client, paying the agency about $50 million annually for transportation services.
Should voters decide to shut it down, the legislation provides for a committee to oversee dissolution and would give Dallas ISD the first right to purchase some of the county agency’s property. The penny tax rate Dallas County Schools levies would continue until the agency’s outstanding debt — which is still unclear — is paid off completely.
Hinojosa stressed that school districts, for the most part, don’t want to be in the transportation business because of the complexities involved and prefer to outsource it. And he noted that the cost for DISD to take over the services keeps mounting as more unknowns — like the questionable land deal — complicate matters.
“I’m not looking forward to taking on someone else’s problem,” Hinojosa said. “But if leadership doesn’t step up in a crisis, what’s going to happen? … If they don’t fix it, two years from now you’re going to be dealing with all these issues, and there won’t be an organized resolution to let the voters decide.”