Ted Cruz and Betsy DeVos are school privatization partners


One thing is certain about whatever Ted Cruz may claim he has “accomplished” for public education during his time in the U.S. Senate: educators and school children can’t afford more of the same.

First, he voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as the most ill-informed, under-qualified secretary of education in the history of the department. Had Cruz cared enough about public schools and educators and voted against her, DeVos wouldn’t be actively trying to lay waste to public education today. Remember, the Senate confirmation vote was 50-50, and Vice President Pence broke the tie in favor of DeVos.

Cruz clearly is on DeVos’ school privatization program. Within a year after voting for her, Cruz succeeded in doing what Dan Patrick has failed to do in Texas. He won congressional  approval of a private school voucher program. It was in the form of an amendment to President Trump’s tax bill. Cruz’s amendment expands the tax-exempt 529 college savings account to cover as much as $10,000 a year in tuition or expenses for elementary and secondary students in religious or other private schools.

This tax break will benefit mainly upper-income families and some in the middle. But it will ignore low-income parents and increase the inequities in educational opportunities, while reducing the amount of federal aid available for educating low-income and disabled children. Cruz also attempted to give the same vouchers to parents who homeschool their children, but that part of his amendment was struck on a procedural issue.

Now, Cruz is back in Texas in the closing days of what he hopes is a reelection campaign, and he is promoting charter schools. He will be talking later today to the Texas Charter Schools conference in Houston. Technically, charters are public schools because they receive our tax dollars. But corporate-style charter chains, which have begun to dominate the charter landscape, are first cousins to private schools, and they are taking millions of tax dollars from under-funded public school districts.

Cruz was scheduled to discuss “his perspective on the federal role in education, his education priorities, and how those priorities would impact Texas.”

Cruz’s perspective on public education is the same as Betsy DeVos’and Dan Patrick’s – under-fund it and then privatize it. TSTA is supporting Beto O’Rourke in the Senate race. O’Rourke will boost public education, not tear it down.



DeVos promotes vouchers for religious schools


Betsy DeVos, the Trump Cabinet officer in charge of destroying public education, was in New York City recently, complaining once again about good public policy and vowing to do away with it.

This time, DeVos’ ill-informed scorn was directed at state constitutional provisions, including one in Texas, that prohibit the expenditure of public tax dollars on religious institutions, including schools. She said these restrictions should be “assigned to the ash heap of history” because they stood in the way of privatizing public education.

One of these days, of course , DeVos and the entire Trump administration will be consigned to the ash heap of history, but in the meantime we have to keep fighting their bad ideas, including vouchers and other schemes to convert public schools into revenue sources for business investors and religious institutions.

According to Education Week, which reported on DeVos’ New York trip, 37 states have constitutional bans on spending public funds on faith-based enterprises. Texas’ prohibition, Article 1, Section 7 of the state constitution, states:

“No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.” (Someone should read that to Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott.)

In 2000, DeVos helped lead an effort to change the constitution in her home state, Michigan, to allow for school vouchers but failed.

But the fight to save public schools will continue because DeVos has a lot of bad ideas, and her allies in Texas have been ignoring their own state constitution.

Wealthy home-schooler, voucher promoter joins the campaign against educator voting


The campaign to scare educators into staying away from the polls has now widened to include a group with a deliberately misleading name and a Texas-sized reputation for mean-spirited political intimidation.

Empower Texans has joined the attack against educators. This group’s goal is to weaken and privatize public schools enroute to shrinking state government. It was founded by a superwealthy West Texas energy businessman named Tim Dunn, who home-schooled his own children, founded a private, religious school in Midland and has made vouchers a major priority. There may be nothing wrong with the rich getting richer, but not by taking our tax dollars away from our public schools.

The “empower” part of Empower Texans applies only to those few Texans who, like Dunn, are wealthy and view government as an obstacle and public education as a lucrative profit center waiting to be tapped. So, it is very important to them that educators don’t vote.

According to a recent report in Quorum Report, a lawyer for Dunn’s group has written an intimidating letter to school district employees around the state urging them to blow the whistle on any colleagues who they suspect of using district resources to promote voting in the March primaries.

The letter followed a politically inspired “legal” opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton, also trying to throw cold water on efforts by educators, including many superintendents, to encourage school employees to vote and to make education their priority issue when casting ballots.

There is no evidence that any school district is misusing tax dollars to support selected candidates, and, despite the attorney general’s suggestion, there is no law against school employees drumming up a large voter turnout among their colleagues. One of the traditional purposes of public education is to foster a sense of civic responsibility among students, and that is easier to do if teachers and other adults in their lives set the example.

But Dunn obviously realizes that educators who vote education first are not going to be voting for any of Empower Texans’ slate of candidates, people who win Dunn’s backing by promising to vote for vouchers and cut education spending.

To secure his goals, Dunn also wants to elect a new speaker of the House who will promote vouchers and squeeze funding from neighborhood public schools. House members who are elected this year will choose the next speaker, the successor to Joe Straus, who repeatedly blocked the Dunn-Dan Patrick-Greg Abbott pro-voucher agenda.

Empower Texans’ letter to school employees is sprinkled with words and phrases like “crimes” and “illegal behavior,” all designed to intimidate educators from voting or encouraging others to vote.

Dunn and his cohorts should be ashamed of themselves, but they aren’t. So, it is up to educators to let them know what you think of their tactics. Don’t be intimidated. Go vote and Vote Education First! And take a few dozen of your colleagues with you.







Neglecting health care for kids while boosting the wealthy; how did your representative vote?


Passing that awful tax bill on the eve of the holidays was bad enough, but the majority in Congress compounded the felony by failing to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program before 2017 drew to a close. A CHIP bill never came to a vote.

That means a huge package of tax cuts and tax breaks for the super-wealthy and what amounts to a private school voucher plan for K-12 are a lock, while the hard-working parents of about 8.9 million low-income American children (almost 400,000 in Texas) still don’t know if they will be able to get basic health care for their kids after existing funding runs out in a few weeks.

Want to do something about it? You can. This is an election year, and here are the members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House from Texas who voted for the tax bill while putting off the health care needs of children:

Both U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn voted for it. Cornyn won’t be up for re-election until 2020, but Cruz will be on the ballot this year. Cruz not only voted for the tax bill, but he also was the sponsor of the voucher amendment that was tacked on to it. His amendment will allow parents to spend as much as $10,000 per child per year from their tax-advantaged 529 savings accounts for K-12 tuition at religious and private schools. Previously, those accounts were limited to college tuition.

The new tax law also will add more than a trillion dollars to the deficit and potentially jeopardize some crucial programs for middle- and low-income Americans, including Social Security and Medicare, when the bills for the billionaire tax cuts come due in a few years. Here are the U.S. House members from Texas who voted for the new tax law. Some aren’t running for re-election, but most are:

Louie Gohmert (District 1), Ted Poe (District 2), Sam Johnson (District 3), John Ratcliffe (District 4), Jeb Hensarling (District 5), Joe Barton (District 6), John Culberson (District 7), Kevin Brady (District 8), Michael McCaul (District 10), Mike Conaway (District 11), Kay Granger (District 12), Mac Thornberry (District 13), Randy Weber (District 14).

Also, Bill Flores (District 17), Jodey Arrington (District 19), Lamar Smith (District 21), Pete Olson (District 22), Will Hurd (District 23), Kenny Marchant (District 24), Roger Williams (District 25), Michael Burgess (District 26), Blake Farenthold (District 27), John Carter (District 31), Pete Sessions (District 32) and Brian Babin (District 36).

Kevin Brady (District 8) also was the chief House sponsor of the tax law.

If you don’t know who represents you in the U.S. House, go to the link below, fill in your home address and under district type, select “congressional.”


Elections have consequences, and this new tax law is one of them. So is the neglect of children’s health care. Now, there will be another election, and a chance for change.