Senator Paul Bettencourt has declared war on public education. The newest state takeover bill (SB 1365) and the charter bill (SB 28), both authored by Senator Paul Bettencourt, will be heard in committee today (3/25.) These bills give the Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner more power than ever before to dismantle school districts and to commandeer state and federal funds with impunity.
Will you call or email your state senator and the members of the Senate Public Education Committee to express your extreme opposition to these bills? Click here for your state senator’s contact information. The Sen Public Ed Committee members’ contact information and a SAMPLE LETTER are at the bottom of this email.
SB 28 is one of the top priorities for charter schools (and the Lt. Governor):
- Eliminates all elected officials from any charter approval and puts decisions entirely in the hands of one appointed state official.
- Limits the ability of city governments to protect our neighborhoods.
- Charter schools call this “red tape”. But we call it democracy. It is the role of our elected officials who work for us and are accountable to the public.
- Read more here.
SB 1365 is so punitive and absolute it turns the investigative process into a pretext for TEA intervention.
- It makes commissioner decisions final and they may not be appealed. There are no checks and balances to prevent abuses of State power or a means of correcting TEA mistakes and overreach.
- The bill would even make it a Class C misdemeanor for a school board trustee to use school district funds to pursue legal action or proceedings of any kind against a TEA decision.
- If a single campus has a conservator assigned to it for two consecutive years, SB 1365 allows the commissioner to appoint a board of managers to the entire district.
- Accreditation investigations are changed to "special investigations" throughout the bill. This broadens the scope of disciplinary action TEA may take, including takeover.
Spite has never been and never will be the basis of good legislation. Something as small as “complaints submitted to the agency concerning imposition of excessive paperwork requirements on classroom teachers” potentially opens the door for any ISD in the entire state to be taken over. This bill authorizes TEA to make any witness testimony confidential, giving TEA investigations a Star Chamber feel.
None of the draconian claptrap in SB 1365 gets to the heart of HISD’s problems or any other ISD’s problems, it only politicizes them. Houston voters elected four new school board members in 2019. This year we have five trustee positions up for election. We the People are motivated and capable of selecting our Board of Trustees. We the People are currently engaged in the HISD superintendent search virtual community meetings. We the People are not Serfs. Mike Morath is not our King!
If SB 1365 and SB 28 make it out of committee it will prove that nothing was learned from February’s disastrous Deep Freeze; gubernatorial appointees are eminently capable of screwing up royally. Why on earth should we ever give them absolute power?
The only thing missing from these bills is the construction of the Tower of Austin, where the beheadings can take place. These bills would elevate a gubernatorial appointee to the role of King of Texas Education.
Listen here at 9:00am on THURSDAY, March 25th
SAMPLE LETTER to OPPOSE SB 1365 and SB 28
I am a parent/teacher/student/Texan and I urge you to vote no to SB 1365 and SB 28 to be heard in committee today.
If you value the independence of the school districts you represent, please vote against SB 1365, sponsored by Sen Paul Bettencourt (R), and its companion HB 3270 sponsored by Rep Harold Dutton. It will eviscerate local control over schools and their budgets and communities, allowing TEA to take over districts at a whim.
Through “special investigations,” the bill allows TEA to scrutinize a district for almost any reason, and then to invoke any disciplinary action. TEA would have total discretion to target any district and take it over.
An even simpler path to takeover: after two years of continuous presence of a TEA-installed “conservator” at a single school, TEA can take over.
Don’t even think about trying to protect the district through the courts or a counter-investigation. Any board vote to fund the “proceeding” would be a criminal Class C misdemeanor. And with new TEA powers of subpoena and confidential witnesses, no ISD could defend itself from liars, disgruntled employees, vendors, and others.
Sen Bettencourt and Rep Dutton’s vengeful bills are all about Houston ISD and its lawsuit against TEA. But every ISD in Texas will experience collateral damage.
Please also vote against SB 28, which eliminates all elected officials from any charter approval and puts decisions entirely in the hands of one appointed state official. The ERCOT mishandling of the February winter storm is a reminder of how bad this idea is.
Please stop these terrible bills.
Senate Public Education Committee member emails and phone numbers are below. Click here for your own state senator’s contact information.
Larry Taylor. [email protected] R Friendswood. (512) 463-0111
Eddie Lucio Jr. eddie.luc[email protected] D Brownsville. (512) 463-0127
Paul Bettencourt, author of SB 1365, companion to HB 3270. (512) 463-0107
[email protected] R Houston
Bob Hall, [email protected] R Edgewood (512) 463-0102
Bryan Hughes, [email protected] R Mineola near Tyler (512) 463-0101