Attention Teachers and Taxpayers:

Teachers and Taxpayers Should Unite against Cronyism

Why should taxpayers take a renewed interest in what’s going on with our public education system?

Liberals are working to hijack the Republican primary at the expense of students, teachers, and taxpayers.

Texans want a thriving education system, that serves Texas’ children in an effective and efficient way with tax dollars focused where they should be—in the classroom.

Forget the canned answers from some in the public education establishment. No sensible person believes these demagogues when they attack education reformers as being “against the kids” or out to “destroy public education.”

Indeed, the Texas constitution says that a strong public education system is crucial to an educated citizenry who understands their rights.

The necessity of a well-educated public isn’t up for debate. Indeed, for our republic to survive and thrive it must be governed by informed and engaged citizens.

No one thinks the Texas Constitution is the problem. No one thinks hardworking teachers are the problem. It’s the bloated education bureaucracy itself, which siphons funds away from the classroom and into the pockets of administrators and district vendors.

Cronyism is undermining the mission of Texas’ public schools and it is threatening the future of our state, driving great teachers out of public education, and hammering students and taxpayers.

Conservatives are fighting for reform, both in the Texas public education system itself and the property tax system that funds it. Not only because they’re overtaxed, but because the cronyism inside the current system is leaving students, parents, and teachers frustrated.

Taxpayers all across Texas are taking a stand against backroom deals being made by the big-government education lobby and are fighting to empower students, parents, and teachers. That starts with less bureaucracy, more freedom, more innovation, and schools that are more accountable to Texas families.

But increasing parental accountability is a threat to “Big Ed.”

The administrative powers that be believe they know what’s best for Texas children. They think they know better than teachers and parents. And the ones calling the shots are profiting mightily from the status quo.

Taxpayers aren’t the only victims by some in the public education establishment. Classroom teachers are also victims. Year after year teachers get a smaller and smaller share of education dollars while putting up with more regulations from administrators who micromanage their classrooms.

Administrators force teachers to pay for school supplies out of their pockets while wasting billions on overpriced school buildings, stadiums, iPads, and other largesse. Administrators claim these bloated bond projects are “for the kids,” even though they primarily benefit district vendors who fund the pro-bond PACs.

The vendors who make millions off of Texas public schools resort to scare tactics to keep teachers and parents voting for their largesse. They fund campaign propaganda created by administrators that, if the bloated bonds don’t pass as prescribed, teacher pay will be cut. Even though the two are wholly unrelated.

For years they have told teachers and parents that conservatives are out to defund and destroy public schools. Thankfully voters haven’t bought that argument. Instead, they have put conservative Republicans in greater control of state government in each election cycle. Conservative reformers want more funds inside the classroom, not football stadiums, or in the pockets of administrators and crony contractors.

Now the same administrators have teamed up with one of their biggest vendors, TASB*, to encourage districts to illegally use taxpayer funds to sway elections. The “block-vote” isn’t about increasing voter turnout, it’s about pressuring teachers, staff, and parents to vote for liberal candidates in the Republican primary.

But government should not be taking sides in politics. In fact, using taxpayer resources to sway how people vote is already illegal.

The effort is being led by far-left groups, like the deceptively-named Texas Parent PAC, which has recently relaunched as a crusade against Texas’ conservative Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.  This is the same Parent PAC that endorsed and supported pro-abortion Democrat Wendy Davis and routinely backs Democrats in November elections.

They’re joined by unions like the Association of Texas Professional Educators and the American Federation of Teachers, anti-taxpayer lobby groups like the George Soros-funded Center for Public Policy Priorities and the Fast-Growth Schools Coalition, and administrator groups like the Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators, Texas Association of School Business Officials, and the Texas Association of School Boards.

TASB is a tax-funded entity composed of school board members from across the state. It’s where school board members are sent for “training.” There they learn to let superintendents run the schools, how the state “doesn’t spend enough” on public education, and that legislators and taxpayers are to blame.

Trustees are trained to rubber stamp administrative edicts, rather than using the tools at their disposal to improve education results in their own backyard with the incredible amount of power they possess. But TASB isn’t just an association of school board trustees—it’s also a vendor of school districts.

The “block voting” effort starts with a simple resolution – sent to the districts by TASB – to “promote a culture of voting.” It calls on school administrators to use taxpayer-funded resources to bus teachers and and [18-year old] students to the polls, and reward teachers for voting, which is illegal.

More shockingly, they call on schools to push teachers to sign an “oath” that they will “vote in support of public education.” And who will do that? The materials distributed in the schools point to liberal groups like Parent PAC, for lists of candidates to support and oppose.

TASB’s “culture of voting” resolution specifically references two voting resources—TexasEducatorsVote.com and TeachtheVote.org.

If these efforts to push teachers to block-vote in the Republican primary are successful, teachers will find themselves as pawns of the leftist machine, and it will be difficult to break free. If the bully tactics are successful, they’ll never end.

Big Ed is stealing its tactics from labor unions and from South Texas political machines to pressure teachers into voting for the bosses’ candidates under the implicit threat that not doing so might cost them their jobs.

Take for example Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. In a video that was shared by the district (but has since been taken down), the district called on teachers to all wear a purple wristband emblazoned with “We Are GCISD” on one side and” #GCISDVotes” on the other. (Do we have this video?)

What if a teacher doesn’t support the administration’s candidates? Or if they don’t want to vote as part of a block in the Republican primary? Will they be forced to wear the purple wristband too?

It’s reminiscent of the card-check system used by thuggish east coast unions to bully workers into giving up their right to work.

Another example comes from Granbury ISD superintendent Jim Largent, who is running against Taxpayer Champion Mike Lang in the Republican primary.

In 2013, Largent got in trouble for forcing teachers to call parents to “remind” them about an upcoming bond election. Many of the teachers were uncomfortable with his request and with good cause – such tactics are illegal under state law. But plenty of the teachers complied, knowing that it wasn’t a good idea to be crosswise with their superintendent.

Now Largent is abusing school resources to promote his campaign for state representative.

Does anyone doubt that if he wins the election, that he won’t be keeping an eye on which teachers “volunteer” to work the polls for him during his next reelection, and the next, and the next?

It’s not just dishonest for these liberal groups to attempt to hijack the Republican primary, it’s a threat to the independence of teachers, and if their tactics are successful, it will only serve to advance the interests of the administrators and vendors who are funding the political efforts.

One school board trustee in Plano is standing up to TASB. In a letter, Yoram Solomon, PhD, MBA, LLB wrote:

We do have a low voter turnout in the state of Texas. In PISD, approximately one in twenty registered voters vote in local elections. Encouraging district employees and students to vote and participate in the electoral process is important to our democracy.

However, influencing them how to vote is not. In fact, it is illegal according to Federal law (18 U.S. Code § 597), and the Texas Election Code section 276.001. It is even prohibited through policies created by TASB.

The Federal law I quoted imposes up to two years in prison for violation, and violating the state law mentioned is a felony of the third degree, carrying a minimum of two-year prison time. Note that the resolution proposes to give employees time off to vote, provide district transportation, and the linked website suggest to give gift cards for voting. All of those require expenditures to encourage voting.

That website asks district employees to sign an oath to vote in a certain way. It refers them to several other websites for recommendations about candidates. In my opinion, the list is biased and excludes other sources which, granted, might have opposing opinions on the topics and candidates.

Likewise, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) is calling on Attorney General Ken Paxton to clarify on whether the tactics being promoted by TASB and its liberal allies violate state law.

“I am concerned about the legal implications of coercing government employees to ascribe to an oath to a particular political viewpoint,” wrote Bettencourt. “I am particularly distressed about … the usage of taxpayer-funded transportation to take public employees and [18-year old] students to and from the polling locations to vote in favor of a particular political agenda.”

Ultimately, the solution to this problem is the same for both teachers and taxpayers. They need to inform themselves about what their elected leaders really think, and what they really do when they’re in Austin.

And they all need to unite against the cronyism that is siphoning funds away from Texas classrooms, and into the hands of administrators and crony vendors who profit off wasteful spending.

Zach Maxwell
EmpowerTexans.com
1.9.18

*Texas Association of School Boards

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