Texas ISDs Look to “Domestic Terrorist” Parents in Upcoming School Bond Elections
Imagine your hard-earned dollars going to a government entity that, at best, covertly resents constituent oversight and, at worst, comfortably pegs constituents as domestic terrorists? And should that viewpoint be rewarded?
Some taxpayer-funded organizations – specifically school districts – evidently think it should and are demonstrating as such on May 7 by seeking voter approval of new school bond proposals to fund the latest never-ending stream of “needed” projects.
In considering new bond proposals, voters should be aware of a resolution passed by the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) of the Republican Party of Texas which calls for local school districts to sever ties with the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).
TASB is funded by public dollars paid via member school districts. It uses these taxpayer dollars to direct cookie-cutter school board programs and operations (think bond election campaigns!) plus fund taxpayer-adverse activities and lobbying efforts including its membership with the National School Boards Association (NSBA), an organization that in late 2021 characterized outspoken parents and other taxpayers as “domestic terrorists.”
The SREC resolution states:
WHEREAS, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has made statements equating parents’ public actions and comments opposing the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in our public schools with “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” in a letter to President Biden; and
WHEREAS, this letter, which NSBA has since retracted, spurred the state school board associations of Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee to terminate their affiliation with NSBA; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) admitted in a letter that the NSBA letter to President Biden “missed the mark” but only committed to working more diligently with NSBA; and
WHEREAS, organizations like TASB, which has allowed the erosion of Texans’ parental authority, should not take direction from NSBA; now
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Texas firmly believes that local Independent School Districts (ISDs) should sever their ties with TASB in order to protect Texas children and the voices of parents; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Texas opposes tax dollars being sent by local ISDs to TASB and NSBA, which both have promoted Critical Race Theory and have opposed Parental Rights; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution shall be sent to all members of the Texas Legislature and to the President of the Texas Association of School Boards, posted on the Republican Party of Texas website, and shared by the SRECs with the ISDs in their respective Senate Districts.
Crazy, but true
Do taxpayers truly want their dollars funding an organization that considers the more outspoken of their ranks to be “domestic terrorists”? And how does TASB’s ongoing membership not signal at least tacit agreement with NSBA’s position?
This relationship trickles down to bode poorly on how local school districts appear to view taxpayers – especially anyone daring to publicly question or disagree with school board policies or actions. And again, should that mindset be rewarded with more of your dollars?
One more point. Ever heard of taxpayer-funded lobbying? That is exactly who and what TASB does. A May 2019 poll conducted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation found the following:
Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation released the results of a poll that again demonstrates Texans’ overwhelming opposition to taxpayer-funded lobbying. Nearly nine out of ten Texans (88%) say they oppose using tax dollars to fund lobbyists to just five percent who say they support it. Fully 78 percent say they strongly oppose taxpayer money going to lobbyists.
In fairness, TASB isn’t the only organization that is associated with local governments and that uses taxpayer funds to lobby against the taxpayer interests. The education industry additionally has the Texas Association of School Administrators while local counties support the Texas Association of Counties and cities support the Texas Municipal League. These organizations share a common bond via their acceptance of taxpayer funds (i.e., local government dues) to pursue actions on behalf of member governments – actions which often directly conflict with taxpayer interests.
Something else these organizations and local governments all have in common: an endless desire for more of your money!
ISDs and their “domestic terrorist” constituents
While their students’ learning levels were questionable, nearly two years of COVID-19 taught parents plenty. In 2021, parents began approaching their school boards and administrators with “return to normalcy” concerns centered around government overreach and specifically in-class teaching options, social distancing, mask and vaccine mandates as well as the use of Critical Race Theory concepts in classroom curriculum. The CRT discovery was one of those odd “silver lining” occurrences that sprang from lockdowns and parents at home overseeing their children’s virtual school experiences.
Responding to these newly vocal and growing numbers of parents, NSBA catapulted to notoriety in September 2021 with a letter to President Joe Biden which called for putting “safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders as they do their jobs.”
The letter went on to discuss NSBA’s view of school district challenges regarding “covid recovery operations” and how “many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula.” It stated, “This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class.”
The organization asked for a joint task force of federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement along with public school officials to focus on the perceived threats. It also requested “assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to intervene against threatening letters and cyberbullying attacks that have been transmitted to students, school board members, district administrators, and other educators.”
Prior to asking for what appears as the full range of the national security apparatus to be unleashed upon dissenting parents, NSBA stated:
As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
You’re defined by the company you keep
Of course, serious backlash occurred. NSBA predictably apologized as state school board associations began dropping their memberships at a rapid rate. In short order it was also discovered that the White House had colluded with NSBA in drafting the letter.
Emails provided to Fox News show that NSBA had coordinated with the White House for weeks beforehand.
Viola Garcia, the NSBA president whom the Department of Education later named to a federal board, sent a memo to NSBA members on Oct. 11 (but dated Oct. 12), providing a timeline of the NSBA’s interaction with the White House ahead of the letter to Biden, which the NSBA sent on Sept. 29.
The emails revealed:
“Concern over the current climate for school board members is also a top priority as disruptions at school board meetings grow and members face growing threats,” Garcia wrote at the time, according to the memo obtained by Parents Defending Education through a Freedom of Information Act request. “NSBA has been actively engaged with the White House, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, Surgeon General, and other federal agencies on pandemic related issues.”
This is how and where school districts spend your money. And via bond elections, they want more. Let that sink in.
But the story doesn’t end
The Texas Freedom Caucus responded to the NSBA letter as follows:
Parents of school-aged children across the country were rightfully shocked. When state-level school board association began to sever ties with NSBA, the Texas Freedom Caucus wrote to the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) requesting that they do the same. In response, TASB minimized NSBA’s comments, saying they “missed the mark,” but refused to ultimately cut ties with NSBA over their remarks. TASB also claimed they were not consulted about NSBA’s letter before it was sent, but documents discovered via a FOIA request show otherwise.
Documents obtained by the advocacy group Parents Defending Education conflicted with TASB’s “no prior knowledge” claim of the letter. The Texan reported:
Responding to an inquiry from the advocacy group Parents Defending Education, TASB distanced itself from the NSBA letter, saying it was not involved. It also said that it would remain an affiliate of NSBA.
However, documents show that NSBA notified its state affiliates of the letter before sending it.
Parents Defending Education obtained communication between NSBA and its affiliates showing that TASB knew a request for protection would be sent to the Biden administration. While the NSBA specified the reason for this request, the full content of the letter was not shared with affiliates like TASB until it was sent.
The Texas Freedom Caucus believes that this newly released correspondence shows that TASB approved the letter before it was sent, in addition to the fact that an Aldine ISD trustee leads NSBA.
The Texas Freedom Caucus sent an open letter to parents, teachers and Texas school board members requesting advocacy of their local ISDs severing ties with TASB. The group noted that “organizations like TASB, who see no problem with taking further control away from parents, have no business in Texas schools” and also created a petition that requests local school districts sever ties with TASB.
TASB’s relationship to NSBA runs deeper than many states. Viola Garcia, NSBA’s current president, is not only a Texan having served as an Aldine ISD school board member for 29 years, but she also served as TASB’s president in 2012-2013.
Baskin’s credentials are listed as “Chair, Council of School Attorneys Director of Legal Services, Texas Association of School Boards Texas.”
With these ties, TASB’s continued support of NSBA is hardly surprising.
Texans speak out
Parents tagged as domestic terrorists was a big story in the fall and it’s likely to again surface as a bond election issue.
School boards and their friends happily tagged concerned parents as domestic terrorists, but really? We’re all good now that you want our money? That may play in the teacher’s lounge, but this election is taking place in the real world.
And taxpayer funded lobbying conducted by organizations like TASB and NSBA has long been a hot button issue for many Texas voters.
In 2021, Chuck DeVore, vice president of national initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said this of taxpayer funded lobbying:
Government – especially local governments in Texas – has no business handing millions of taxpayer dollars over to lobbyists, full stop. Taxpayer money, ‘critical funds’ should instead go directly to education, public safety, property tax relief or other priorities that benefit taxpayers directly.
We’ve got a situation which combines taxpayer funded lobbying with cronyism and governmental overreach – it’s a trifecta that’s not likely to sit well with educated voters in today’s post-pandemic climate.
Here’s what Texas Scorecard has said on the issue:
As more and more Texans join the backlash against the National School Boards Association for comparing parents fighting harmful school district policies to “domestic terrorism,” they’re reminded that their lawmakers failed to defund the NSBA’s Texas affiliate—despite repeated calls from constituents to stop sending tax dollars to lobbyists.
The Texas Association of School Boards is a statewide tax-funded lobbying group for school officials. All 1,024 Texas school boards are TASB members. Dues are paid with tax dollars, and TASB sends some of those dollars to the NSBA.
“We have been calling for withdrawal from TASB, as well as other similar organizations, for years!” said Fran Rhodes, president of conservative activist group True Texas Project. “It’s part of the taxpayer-funded lobbyist problem that plagues every aspect of our local governments.”
In addition to also noting that TASB counts all 1,024 school districts as Active Members of the Association, the Texas Public Policy Foundation describes the TASB/NSBA relationship as follows:
Given all the attention, it’s clear that the controversy isn’t going away—nor should it. The NSBA’s view of parental participation in school board meetings is repugnant and has no place here. That a Texas-based institution—funded with our tax dollars—continues to closely align itself with such a radical organization raises some serious questions.
And as this is “happy talk” season, your local school district won’t want to continue these type discussions about TASB or NSBA. In fact, there are a lot of issues school districts don’t want to talk about.
The bottom line
Taxpayer approval of bond proposals should be a transactionary event in which the public entrusts a local government entity with significant dollars and the government is charged with dutifully expending the funds as per the bond issuance terms. It’s an agreement ideally based on both parties acting in good faith.
As May 7 approaches, school districts will ramp up the emotional pressure with “for the children” and “21st century learning” campaigns. Coaching sessions to optimize bond election outcomes are underway as was recently seen at an education component of Austin’s SXSW festival.
Districts will ramp up the peer pressure campaign with letters from prominent citizens as well as newspaper ads featuring lists of “influential” bond supporters. “We’re all in this together” is the mantra until the ever-present “time for you to give us more of your money” message emerges. These times never much feel like good faith is any serious part of the equation.
Based on this and prior articles, three issues surface that school districts won’t want to discuss:
- Relationships with taxpayer-hostile organizations (TASB, NSBA) v. taxpayers? Which is most important?
- The true price of bond proposals (penalty plus interest).
- Current debt levels to which new proposals will be added and the community impact.
In deciding support or opposition, the points most avoided should be those of greatest consideration. It’s time for some real talk about school bond elections.
Lou Ann Anderson worked in central Texas talk radio as both a host and producer and currently hosts Political Pursuits: The Podcast. Her tenure as Watchdog Wire–Texas editor involved covering state news and coordinating the site’s citizen journalist network. As a past Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity–Texas, Lou Ann wrote and spoke on a variety of issues including the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended heirs or beneficiaries.