Analysis Based on factual reporting, although it Incorporates the expertise of the author/producer and may offer interpretations and conclusions.

How Dallas ISD 2015, 2020 bond funds were spent on South Dallas schools

By Renee Umsted,

March 5, 2024

South Dallas

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H.S. Thompson Elementary, closed by Dallas ISD in 2011, was rebuilt on the same site as a STEAM school, complete with classrooms for science, art, music and more.

The “Great” James Madison High School is getting a facelift, with a new competition gym and tennis courts, plus renovations to the band hall and upgrades to the football field.

South Dallas is one of four neighborhoods to be given a resource center to help district students and families “overcome obstacles that may interfere with academic success.” That center is open at J.J. Rhoads Learning Center.

And there are plans for the Legendary Lincoln High School, too, including flooring and lighting updates across campus, renovations to areas such as the library and fine arts wing, and even some new additions.  

Dallas ISD’s bond packages provide funding that makes projects like these possible. In bond packages, the district issues debt to be paid back through tax dollars.   

In the past decade, voters have approved two of them: a $1.6 billion package in November 2015 and a $3.47 billion package in 2020. 

Dallas Free Press compiled information about 2015 and 2020 bond projects at South Dallas schools — how much money was allocated to campuses, how much was actually spent and which improvements were completed. Click here to see our findings.

Notes about the data

  • A Dallas ISD website dedicated to the 2015 bond, highlighting projects and providing an overview of the bond, was taken down after we gathered details from it. The 2015 bond dashboard is still available. (In October 2020, Dallas Free Press published an update on 2015 bond projects at local schools. Read it here.)
  • There are a few terms used on the 2015 dashboard that are not found on the 2020 bond dashboard. Here’s what they mean:
    • Current budget: Funds allocated to a project
    • Committed amount: Purchase orders and expenditures (amounts to be paid and amounts that have already been paid)
    • Remaining balance: Current budget minus committed amount 
  • When there is funding left over after a project is completed, as in the case of the 2015 project at Madison, which came in nearly $800,000 under budget, the balance “is moved to program contingency and reallocated based on current facility needs,” Dallas ISD says.

Specifics on 2020 bond projects at South Dallas schools

The “Great” James Madison High School

Total budget: $41 million 

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Original expected completion: November 2022 

Current expected completion: Late 2024

Bond funds are benefitting the athletics facilities at Madison. Improvements include a new competition gym, tennis courts, track and turf for the football field; a locker room addition that doubles as a storm shelter; and renovations to the existing locker room and gym floor, laundry room and athletic support facilities. These are in addition to a new parking lot, upgrades to retaining walls, exterior masonry work, drainage improvements and renovation of the band hall. 

Lincoln High School and Humanities/Communications Magnet 

Total budget: $15.28 million 

Expected completion: August 2026 

Flooring, paint, ceiling, tile, lighting and restroom updates were planned for Lincoln’s campus. A January 2024 community meeting presentation also highlighted renovations of the fine arts wing, cafeteria, library, auditorium, collegiate academy and athletics facilities. 

Lincoln Feeder Pattern Resource Center at J.J. Rhoads

Total budget: $16.14 million

Actual completion: January 2024 

The resource center, which serves families in the Lincoln and Madison feeder patterns, offers mental health counseling, job training, and access to healthy food and safe public spaces offering recreational activities and academic workshops. 

Billy Earl Dade Middle School 

Total budget: $1 million 

The completion date and details about projects planned for the school are not displayed on the district’s 2020 bond webpages.

J.J. Rhoads Learning Center

Total budget: $31.21 million 

At this campus, Dallas ISD plans to use bond funds to enhance security features, improve plumbing and lighting, renovate the kitchen and cafeteria and revamp the building exterior. No project completion date is displayed on the bond website.

Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School 

Total budget: $2.05 million 

Dallas ISD’s website does not show details about how bond funds will be spent at this South Dallas school or when the projects will be completed.

Charles Rice Learning Center 

Total budget: $9.79 million 

New security features, interior and exterior lighting and ceilings will be installed at the campus. The roof and gym floor are being replaced, and mechanical/HVAC systems will be improved. However, the district’s website shows no timeline for construction projects at this school.

Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center 

Total budget: $8.27 million 

Dallas ISD’s bond website doesn’t display details about how and when bond funds will be spent.

Martin Luther King Jr. Arts Academy 

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Total budget: $34.45 million 

Classroom renovations, security upgrades, new exterior LED lighting, and HVAC and plumbing improvements are among the projects funded through the 2020 bond. The district’s website shows that these projects are in the construction phase, but it doesn’t show a target opening date.

Issues with Dallas ISD bond data reporting

In early January, the 2015 bond dashboard could not be viewed. We alerted Dallas ISD’s web services team, who resolved the issue within two weeks. Then we found discrepancies between the bond website and dashboard. 

For example, H.S. Thompson Elementary School’s total budget for the campus is more than $30 million, according to the project page on the 2015 bond website. But the dashboard shows a budget of $29.79 million.  

When we asked which amount was accurate, Dallas ISD said the actual cost of improvements at this campus was $26.92 million — millions of dollars less than what was reported on either the project page or the dashboard. The difference between the numbers “may be due to changes in project scope and/or cost savings,” according to the district.

As of March 5, the 2015 bond website is no longer available. But even before it was removed, Dallas ISD had made changes to it, as shown in the slider below. 

There also are inconsistencies with 2020 bond information.

The 2020 bond dashboard includes some campuses that are not listed under the “Current Projects” or “Completed” tabs on the 2020 bond website. And some schools, such as Madison, are listed under the “Current Projects” tab but are not listed on the 2020 bond dashboard. 

For other schools, the budgets listed on the dashboard and website are not the same; for example, Martin Luther King Jr. Arts Academy has a total budget of $9 million, according to its project page, but the dashboard shows a budget of more than $34 million.

In other words, based on information available online, it isn’t always clear how much bond funding was allocated to a campus initially, or how the funding was supposed to be spent.

Justin Henry, the Dallas ISD trustee for District 9, which includes Madison and Lincoln high schools, commented on the 2020 bond website during a Feb. 8 board briefing.

“There’s a website where you can go and look at these projects and what was promised and what’s been delivered and what will be delivered, where it’s at in the progress,” Henry says. “I don’t think I’ve seen that before. So in the future, when you say, ‘this was supposed to be done,’ you know whether it was done or not.”

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While his comment may be true for bond projects at some campuses, it’s not true for all of them. More than $2 million was allocated to Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School through the 2020 bond, according to the 2020 bond dashboard. But the school isn’t listed among current or completed projects on the main 2020 bond site.

For some South Dallas schools, including Charles Rice Learning Center, there’s a document linked to the school on the bond dashboard. These documents contain itemized lists of improvements planned for the campuses, along with associated costs. But Rangel does not have one of these documents linked to it.

Dallas ISD’s 2015 and 2020 bond dashboards differ in some ways, but they both have a note that says the district “disclaims any responsibility” for typos and accuracy of the information.

This begs the question: Where can stakeholders find accurate information about Dallas ISD’s bond projects?

Dallas Free Press submitted an open records request to learn how much money was allocated to South Dallas schools through the 2015 and 2020 bonds and how much money the district has spent at each campus. We also asked about how that money was spent (i.e. what was done at campuses) as well as the status of projects at each campus: Are they still being designed? Under construction? Completed?

We will provide updates when we receive answers. 

Progress on the 2020 Dallas ISD bond 

At a Feb. 8 Dallas ISD Board of Trustees briefing, Dallas ISD’s chief construction officer, Brent Alfred, gave a breakdown on the status of the 242 total projects in the 2020 bond.

So far, $1.48 billion has been committed to bond projects, Alfred said.

  • $3 billion was allocated to facilities, and 39% of that has been committed.
  • $114 million was allocated to safety and security, and 42% of that has been committed.
  • $270 million was allocated to technology, and 74% of that has been committed. 

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