Author: suem

Dan Patrick is trying to con rural Texans into dropping their opposition to vouchers

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick spent a lot of time during his reelection campaign on a bus tour of rural Texas, an important part of his political base and home to an important group of people he hopes to sucker into supporting his latest attempt to steal education tax dollars for private school vouchers. The result of his attempted con could go a long way toward determining the fate of vouchers during the upcoming legislative session.

Patrick and his allies, mostly Republicans, have tried to force vouchers on Texas taxpayers several times before, only to be repeatedly blocked in the House by a combination of Democratic and rural Republican legislators who, unlike Patrick, value their public schools and the important contributions they make to their local communities and their state’s future.

These rural lawmakers represent constituents who also recognize the folly of stealing funding from their local school districts, which also are major employers in their communities. Most of these people voted for Patrick and his fellow voucher promoter, Greg Abbott, but they also know they have few, if any, private schools in their towns. So why should their small, public schools be forced to bleed money to benefit private school owners and students hundreds of miles away in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or Austin?

Patrick and his privatization allies don’t have a good answer for that question because there isn’t one. Instead, Patrick is trying to con his rural supporters by promising that small, rural schools will be excluded from any voucher program.

That apparently means that students in rural districts would be excluded from receiving any vouchers or tax-credit scholarships from any program the Legislature may enact. But Patrick’s promise ignores the major problem that concerns his rural constituents: Their underfunded school districts would still lose valuable tax dollars to pay for the voucher program.

That’s because any tax dollars diverted to vouchers would take money away from all public schools across the state, even schools in rural areas, even schools whose students aren’t eligible to receive vouchers.

Rural children wouldn’t get vouchers, but their school districts and their parents would still be paying to send children in faraway cities to private schools.

What kind of deal is that? Like all voucher plans, it’s a bad one.

Clay Robison

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

Ken Paxton is a dangerous attorney general; Texas needs Rochelle Garza

It would be wrong to dismiss Ken Paxton as a worthless attorney general. He is much worse than worthless. He is a dangerous attorney general.

His only real allegiance is to himself and Donald Trump. In a direct attack on democracy, he filed a lawsuit to try to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election, feeding Trump’s lie that Joe Biden had “stolen” the White House from him, and he remains loyal to the former president.

In his latest stunt, Paxton has attacked Biden over the Justice Department’s investigation into the classified documents Trump was illegally hoarding at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. In an unsolicited brief filed with a federal appellate court, Paxton claimed that the Biden administration could not be trusted to tell the truth about its investigation of the former president.

Considering that neither Trump nor Paxton can hardly issue a public statement without uttering at least one lie, that is an absurd attack for Paxton to make against the government’s investigation. Hopefully, the court will ignore Paxton’s effort, but it serves his purpose. It keeps the truth-deniers – and there are many among Paxton’s supporters – stirred up for his reelection campaign. Or so he hopes.

Never mind the nation’s security or the democratic process or whatever else may be compromised if the government’s investigation is derailed. They are of secondary importance to this attorney general.

This incident is only the latest outrage from Paxton, who has spent much of his time in office under indictment on felony securities fraud charges. He professes innocence but seems in no hurry to face a jury.

This list is far from exhaustive, but here are a few more of Paxton’s political abuses:

  • Participated in the pro-Trump rally that preceded the Jan. 6, 2020, attack on the Capitol to try to disrupt the certification of the election results.
  • Issued a legally dubious opinion declaring that some forms of gender-affirming treatment for children could be considered child abuse. This prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to issue an order resulting in state investigations of transgender kids and their families.
  • Has made multiple attacks on immigrants, spreading unfounded fears among his political base.
  • Filed a lawsuit attempting to kill the Affordable Care Act and, with it, the prohibition against insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and the right of parents to keep children on their family policies until age 26.
  • Told county clerks with religious objections that they didn’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
  • Has abused his office to suppress voting, including an organized effort to deter educators from voting.

Fortunately, there is a strong alternative to Paxton on the ballot this year. She is Rochelle Garza, a native of Brownsville and daughter of public-school teachers, who will be an attorney general for all Texans and will defend our democracy, not try to destroy it.

Clay Robison