The Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based, “free market” think tank, has long been an advocate of privatizing education, creating more opportunities, not for school children, but for the entrepreneurs it counts among its financial backers. TPPF views government, including public schools, as a potential profit center for investors, and its influence is evident among the state’s current leadership.
For good reason, educators have always been a threat to TPPF’s program. I don’t mean the people who go around calling themselves education “experts” and are on call for Dan Patrick to summon them to the Capitol to testify for his latest bad idea.
I mean the real education experts, the teachers, counselors and others who work in Texas’ public schools, trying to give every child an opportunity to succeed, including those kids who private schools and corporate charters don’t want to touch.
So it’s not surprising that the “free market” think tank has added its support to an obvious effort to intimidate educators from voting in this year’s elections. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston, who has consistently voted to under-fund public schools and promote vouchers, got the anti-educator campaign started late last year. He asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for a legal opinion on what school districts can and can’t do to encourage employees and students of voting age to register and vote.
He was responding to efforts of a nonpartisan group called Texas Educators Vote that is urging school districts to help drum up a large voting turnout among educators and urging educators to vote in the best interests of Texas school children. TSTA also has launched a similar, but separate, Vote Education First campaign.
Paxton promptly answered Bettencourt’s request and in a non-binding political opinion that was as predictable as 100-degree temperatures in Austin in August suggested that educator voting campaigns were a nefarious plot. TPPF applauded.
In a statement, TPPF said Paxton had recognized the educators’ campaign was “a thinly veiled coercion of government employees, who were urged to support an oath in support of Texas school children by a group that seems to support a particular political agenda.”
Imagine that. Educators urging educators to vote in support of school children.
Individual educators have a constitutional right to support a political agenda of their choosing, and they certainly have a right to vote in the best interests of their students and their professions. But’s that the kind of voting that scares the school privateers.
At lot is at stake in this year’s elections. Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick, two of the biggest school privatization advocates in state government, are on the ballot. And so are legislative races that will determine who the next speaker of the House is. Speaker Joe Straus, who is retiring, opposed vouchers and other privatization schemes. But who will be his successor?
Vote Education First!