After enduring four elections in two years, Dallas ISD District 2 trustee Dustin Marshall is ready to get off the campaign trail.
On June 10, he defeated challenger Lori Kirkpatrick in a runoff election by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, garnering more than 66 percent of the vote.
“It was certainly a load off to put the runoff behind us,” Marshall said. “We were pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of the margin.”
The result was especially surprising given that Kirkpatrick actually topped Marshall in the May 6 general election, falling just 23 votes shy of an outright majority.
“I’m obviously disappointed in the outcome, but I’m inspired and energized by all of the support I received during and since the election,” Kirkpatrick said. “The issues I highlighted during my campaign will be the issues I continue to focus on.”
Kirkpatrick said she intends to continue advocating for public education, but has not decided what her next step will be.
The outcome was a far cry from last year, when Marshall defeated Mita Havlick by a mere 42 votes in a special election runoff to fill the seat vacated after Mike Morath was appointed Texas Education Agency commissioner.
Marshall credited his campaign for doing a “marvelous” job of reaching out at the local level and getting support from many different places.
“We sort of felt a groundswell of support from the parents and knew that lots of folks had shown up in early voting,” he said. “We also had a lot of support from leaders within the schools.”
Havlick, his former opponent, publicly supported him; she joined a long list of endorsements from well-known names, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, former mayors Tom Leppert and Ron Kirk, County Judge Clay Jenkins, city council representatives Jennifer Gates and Lee Kleinman, and State Rep. Morgan Myer. Marshall was also endorsed by the Dallas Morning News editorial board and mentioned in articles in D Magazine and the Dallas Observer.
“It’s not often that you get all three of them to agree,” he said.
Now that the election is behind him, Marshall said his first order of business is to find a way to sufficiently fund early childhood education initiatives. While the 2017-18 DISD budget does increase funding for pre-K programs, the amount is far less than what was called for in the district’s Early Childhood 5 Year Strategic Plan.
Additional funding from the state may also be hard to come by. In May, legislators allocated $118 million to pre-K grants, which is only half of the $236 million asked for by Gov. Greg Abbott. The issue is not on the agenda of the upcoming special session.
“The board is divided on this right now, and we need to make it a top priority,” Marshall said.
His other top priority will be to continue district efforts to attract and retain more top-notch teachers.
“We need to get a quality teacher in front of every class,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but still have a long way to go.”