Month: <span>October 2022</span>

Is Gov. Abbott’s education commissioner using existing law to support a secret voucher plan?

Among many reasons for voting for Beto O’Rourke for governor is O’Rourke’s firm opposition to vouchers and Greg Abbott’s intention to make vouchers a priority for next year’s legislative session. According to a Texas Monthly article, however, Abbott’s state education commissioner may have endorsed a secret plan to bypass the Legislature and encourage school districts to create their own vouchers now.

The idea is to use an existing law, SB1882, enacted in 2017, which gives school districts additional state funding if they form partnerships with outside entities, including charter schools, to take control of struggling campuses.

Texas Monthly writer Forrest Wilder identified one of the authors of the plan as Aaron Harris, a Fort Worth-based Republican consultant who apparently has spent more time spreading lies about voter fraud than learning anything about educating kids. Nevertheless, he cofounded a nonprofit called the Texans for Education Rights Institute with Monty Bennett, a dabbler in “education reform,” who in real life is a wealthy Dallas hotelier.

They made a confidential proposal to Wimberley ISD in Central Texas for a SB1882 partnership between the district and their Texans for Education Rights Institute to create a charter school tentatively called the Texas Achievement Campus, even though there were no plans to create a real campus.

Instead, Texans for Education Rights would work with Responsive Education Solutions, a charter school chain based in Lewisville, near Dallas, to place public school students from around the state into private schools of their choice at “no cost to their families.” The children would be counted as Wimberley ISD students enrolled at the non-existent Achievement Campus, but the extra tax dollars awarded to the district for its additional “attendance” would be redirected to private schools throughout Texas.

According to Texas Monthly’s reporting, state Education Commissioner Mike Morath, Abbott’s appointee, knew about the plan and would have supported Texas Education Agency staff providing “technical support” to Wimberley ISD at no cost to the district. TEA also reportedly raised some “challenges,” including the question of how the school district would “ensure private schools serving (Wimberley ISD) students outside the community” were following state-mandated curriculum.

After intense lobbying by the plan’s supporters, the Wimberley school board voted 4-2 in early August to scrap the proposal, although one board member who supported the plan reportedly claimed, “TEA is 100 percent supportive of the program.”

The pro-voucher group also is believed to be pitching the same idea to other school districts.

“I’m not accusing anyone of laundering money, by the legal definition, but there sure are a lot of hands touching a lot of money in this,” Alief ISD Supt. H.D. Chambers told Texas Monthly. “It’s a Trojan Horse for vouchers.”

Inside the secret plan to bring private school vouchers to Texas

Clay Robison

The imposters who pretend to be addressing public safety and school security are going from bad to absurd

It has been clear since the Uvalde shooting tragedy that Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are more committed to pleasing the gun lobby than protecting the lives of 29 million Texas residents, including five million public school children.

But they still go through the motions of pretending to address public safety and school security, while refusing to address the real issue – sensible gun reform laws to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people who shouldn’t have them.

Abbott has ordered schools to make sure their doors are locked, ordered safety audits of campuses and, just this week, added another high-level employee to the state bureaucracy – the chief of school safety and security.

Patrick, meanwhile, has come up with the absurd idea of enacting a law to require a 10-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of using a gun while committing a crime.

Ten years? Sounds tough, huh? That’s what Patrick wants people to think. But think about it again. Threatening a mass shooter with a 10-year prison sentence would be less effective than throwing a bucket of water at a wildfire.

Had the Uvalde shooter survived, he would have been eligible for the death penalty, as all convicted mass murderers potentially are in Texas. Mass shooters don’t think about the consequences. Many probably expect to die in a shootout with police.

And mass shootings aside, Texas already has laws providing the potential of 10 years or more in prison for many other crimes involving firearms. So, there is little, if any, violent crime prevention or deterrence in Patrick’s proposal and absolutely none for mass shooters.

Patrick’s plan would keep the gun lobby happy though because it would do nothing to restrict gun sales to potential murderers, robbers, rapists and other violent criminals.

But what else would you expect from Dan Patrick? Last year, he passed a law, which Abbott signed, to allow most adults to carry firearms without a license or any safety training.

“Texans are fed up with violent crime and skyrocketing murder rates,” Patrick says in a campaign ad.

Texans also are fed up with anti-crime imposters.

Clay Robison