State lawmaker says Texas school board members get ‘indoctrination’ into groupthink culture

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/watchdog/2016/11/18/lawmaker-says-indoctrination-training-texas-school-boards-puts-adults-first-children-second

Guts. That’s what Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst showed this year when she took on the state’s powerful education lobby with harsh but true words.

She said a few months back at an Austin hearing that the Texas Association of School Boards, which trains trustees in almost every school district, “indoctrinates” its members into “a kind of culture” that is unhealthy for schoolchildren.

It’s an adults-first, children-second mindset, the Brenham lawmaker said. Too much emphasis on the next building, not enough on academics.

She didn’t stand alone. At the same hearing, a school board member, parents and activists supported her contention with similarly harsh words.

Leaders of TASB, known by its pronunciation of TAZ-bee, didn’t see it coming.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, did something few lawmakers do openly at an August meeting. She poked the state's powerful education establishment in the eye.
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, did something few lawmakers do openly at an August meeting. She poked the state’s powerful education establishment in the eye.

What she said

Remember the lone man in China who stood up against the tank in Tiananmen Square? The senator is like that, and the tank is the billion-dollar Texas public school business. School board members are the largest group of elected officials in the state. It’s dangerous to poke the bear.

The senator, who represents parts of 21 counties, said this: “Here’s what I find when I deal with some school board members. The indoctrination. You’re supposed to tell your lawmakers not to do this. You’re supposed to tell your lawmakers that we need more money and less accountability.

“When they come back from [TASB] training, their personalities have completely changed.”

She promised, “I’m going to look very closely at the indoctrination — the training of these school board members.”

In an education bulletin to members of the Texas Association of Community Schools, a lobbyist later described these comments as “a turn for the nasty.”

Actually, they’re a turn toward truth.

TASB disagrees

“The truth is just the opposite.”

The rebuttal comes from Charles Stafford, a Denton ISD school board member who happens to be this year’s TASB president.

I told him about the senator’s comments.

“It’s just not right,” he said.

He tells The Watchdog about the wonderful ways that TASB helps school districts in addition to training — insurance, a purchasing cooperative, legal services, and understanding state education laws.

Oh, and don’t forget the corps of TASB lobbyists.

TASB critics complain that taxpayers pay for school board members to join TASB, and TASB lobbyists then go out and promote views that may be counter to children, parents and teachers. But they’re good for superintendents and board members.

Steve Lecholop, a San Antonio ISD board member, backed the senator’s comments.

TASB training is “not even close to good enough,” he told the Senate Education Committee. He called it “bad professional development, some of the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Volunteer board members are not given the tools they need to think for themselves and challenge strong-willed superintendents by holding them accountable for proper management, he said.

Another critic,  activist Peggy Venable, said there are enough dysfunctional school boards in the state to prove training is inadequate. “We shouldn’t have to have the FBI come in and do an investigation,” she said.

Lynn Davenport, Richardson ISD parent
Lynn Davenport, Richardson ISD parent

Richardson ISD parent Lynn Davenport testified that the training teaches board members “how not to listen to us.” Boards too often go through the motions of leadership in public meetings “with preordained outcomes established before the meetings even begin.”

When board members return from TASB conferences, she said, “they use words that don’t resonate with me as a taxpayer: global citizen, future-ready global economy, 21st-century learner, human capital, social emotional learning group, global workforce, outcomes, data-driven.

“The words we use in my house are reading, writing, paper, pencil, textbook, math facts, homework, solving the correct answer, grammar, good grades, spelling, progress report cards, academics.”

Highland Park ISD parent Meg Bakich testified: “In reality, our school boards become pawns of our superintendents. They vote 7-0 in lock step. We’re a diverse community. Who is representing all of our different views when everyone always votes 7-0?”

Parent Steve Swanson of Austin testified: “Sometimes a board member just needs to know the right questions to ask. … So often I’m in a board meeting where it’s courageous for a board member to actually ask a question. And usually the response they get is: ‘Oh, everything’s OK. Don’t worry.’ We have to become more mature than that.”

It’s true

Two years ago, I attended a TASB training session called “Dealing with Mavericks, Malcontents and Mutineers.” The speaker described dissenters as “beepholes,” “jerks,” “difficult,” “special” and “interesting.” I call them brave.

That session is not unusual. At a prior convention, I heard a TASB speaker train on how to deal with “the lone wolf” board member. He said the community views this trustee “as a real nut.”

A TASB training video I saw a few years ago quotes a board member as explaining “When I first got here, I had an agenda, and that was a mistake. If you are a good board member, you can’t have an agenda.”

The Senate Education Committee was the scene of a full frontal attack on the state's education establishment by a senator, a school board member and interested parents.
The Senate Education Committee was the scene of a full frontal attack on the state’s education establishment by a senator, a school board member and interested parents.

Solutions

Lawmakers are poised to examine the nonprofit, multimillion-dollar unregulated TASB operations. Lecholop, the San Antonio trustee, has a few ideas. He wants a law requiring board meetings to be live-streamed so taxpayers can watch live meetings on their devices while at home as “they put their kids to bed.”

He wants financial transparency with every school district required to publicize their checkbook expenses for scrutiny. A few districts do it voluntarily.

Trustee removal laws also must be changed. Unlike mayors and city council members, school board members cannot be removed from office with a recall petition signed by voters, followed by an election. Under a new law, not yet used, a trustee can be removed on action by a county or district attorney and a  judge in a court hearing. Too cumbersome. Why are we protecting disreputable trustees from removal?

The irony of this, Kolkhorst acknowledges, is that school districts are called ISDs for independent school districts. But with such a centralized indoctrination establishment at it core, the word independent is a joke.

Check out The Watchdog Mondays on NBC5 at 11:20 a.m. talking about matters important to you.

Watch the Senate Committee on Education hearing where this was discussed.

Hurricane Harvey and Texas House Bill 1774

By Kaia Flowers -Guest Columnist with Big Jolly Politics

The great state of Texas has suffered a devastating blow the past week. Hurricane Harvey was a nightmare scenario that many of us did not see coming. The damage to our area is unprecedented with countless families having lost everything they own – houses, cars, and clothing gone in a flash. Social media is filled with pictures of homes flooded to the roof, streets filled with cars no longer fit to drive, and debris fields along our coast.

Another thing filling our news feeds and twitter walls are messages urging people to file insurance claims before a September 1, 2017 deadline. Most of the memes do not give any other information besides the opinion that a bill, HB1774, will hurt people filing insurance claims after this deadline.

What exactly is HB1774? HB1774 is a lawsuit reform bill passed by the Texas Legislature in the 85th session along party lines in the Texas House, 92-55 and in the Texas Senate 21-7, with one Democrat supporting it. It outlines the amount of interest added to claims that are not paid out in a timely manner (section542.060, amended subsection A and adding subsection C), it requires a pre-suit notice of 61 days before a lawsuit is filed (section542A.003), it instructs the court to dismiss with prejudice any claim against an insurance company that is fulfilled before court (i.e. settled with the homeowner, section 542A.006) and outlines the award of attorney’s fees during a lawsuit (section 542A.007). Lawsuit reform is a necessary part of our legal system; laws must be written and revised to ensure that frivolous lawsuits do not hurt the consumer (many experts say that Texas has the strongest consumer protections in regard to insurance policies in the nation). The cost from these lawsuits is passed on to the consumer by raising rates or high prices on everyday goods that we buy.

The timing of this bill and the subsequent social media hysteria is unfortunate during this crisis. We should be very skeptical of the fear mongering in our Facebook feeds. Lawsuits are not the norm and should not be the norm. The vast majority of people will not have to sue their insurance company to receive a settlement. This bill focuses on the outliers that have been unable to come to an amicable settlement.

The Texas state legislature did not lower the amount of interest you will receive if a claim is not paid in a timely manner, they defined it – some cases will still receive 18% interest while other cases will receive the interest rate in section 304.003 of the finance code plus 5%. Section 542.060 subsection C states “Nothing in this subsection prevents the award of prejudgment interest on the amount of the claim, as provided by law.” The pre-suit notice is designed to allow the insurance claim to be settled expediently. After giving notice of the pending litigation the insurance company will have an opportunity to settle the claim without going to trial. This will save time and money by reducing attorney’s fees and the length of the unfilled insurance claim, which is the goal.

This bill also outlines the award of attorney’s fees. It requires reasonable and necessary attorney fees that are supported by sufficient evidence at trial. If the court hears evidence to support a higher attorney fee it will be granted but the key is that there must be evidence. Without this clause unscrupulous lawyers can take advantage of exorbitant attorney’s fees raising the cost of lawsuits and limiting the amount the award to the homeowner.

Without the attorney fee clause, would there have been an uproar over this bill worrying people displaced by hurricane Harvey? I find it extremely unlikely because there would have been no gain to flood social media with messages urging people in shelters to file their claims before the Texas HB1774 takes effect. Filing insurance claims promptly is always the best thing to do in these situations. The faster this step is done the faster people can begin to rebuild their lives after this natural disaster.  In times of hardship there are people who will misuse the public’s trust for their own gain and that is unfortunate but please do not be scared that your insurance agency will abandon you due to this bill.

Kaia Flowers is a long time resident of La Porte, Texas. Mrs. Flowers is currently a student at the University of Houston Clear Lake and is pursuing her degree in history and government.

SE Texas Legislative Recap – With Empower Texans & TX Freedom Caucus Member…

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, text

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/se-texas-legislative-recap-with-empower-texans-tx-freedom-caucus-members-tickets-36589652636

Just a quick reminder to get your tickets. VIP tickets have been the most popular and the  deadline to purchase VIP tickets is Monday August 21, 2017. Do it now before those preferred seats are gone! Along with preferred seating you’ll get Gourmet Hotdog with Texas Chili, chips, drinks, Souvenir Mug and fresh popped popcorn. How can you miss?!

We hope to see you there to hear the real tales of the 85th Lege AND Special Session from those who worked hard, and strategically,  to hold Republicans accountable to the RPT Platform on the floor of the House. Come out and meet some of the candidates who are ready to primary some of the ones having to be held accountable…when it worked and when it didn’t. Know this…tricks and shenanigans abounded.

It’s a great night of fun and information as well as an opportunity to shake hands with some members of the Texas Freedom Caucus. Follow the link above to see the confirmed guests. More will be added soon.

 

WILL THE STRAUS/HUNTER GAG RULE PREVAIL?

https://www.lonestarvoiceonline.org/2017/08/10/will-the-straushunter-gag-rule-prevail/

The Texas House will convene today at 9:00 am, an hour earlier than normal.  The House set up the rules by which it will be governed during the session at the very beginning of the session.  These rules can do everything from allowing reps to smoke in their offices to laying out how many hours a bill must be posted before it can come to the floor.

A rule change could quite possibly come before the body this morning that will alter the procedure of adding amendments to bills that come before the body.  You can watch the floor proceedings here.

The rule change being presented is being called the “Straus/Hunter Gag Rule”.  If adopted, this rule will not allow any amendments to be offered for SB1, the Senate’s version of the Property Tax Reform Bill. The rule change is as follows:

RULE FOR FLOOR CONSIDERATION

C.S.S.B. 1 

Pursuant to Rule 3, Section 4(2) and Rule 6, Section 16(f) of the House Rules, the House Committee on Calendars proposes the following rule governing floor consideration of SB 1:

 Section 1. No amendments will be offered on second reading and third reading consideration of SB 1.

 

If adopted, this rule change will set a precedence that could be used to stop amendments to other bills in the future.

Please contact your state representative this morning and let them know what you think about this rule change.  Their contact information can be found here.

If House leadership polled members last night, depending on the results, the rule will either come to the floor or it won’t.

Please let your voice be heard on this and please let others know about what is happening today on the Texas House floor.

Legislators Change Votes to Save Face

https://empowertexans.com/under-the-dome/legislators-change-votes-save-face/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Republican lawmakers whose voting records betray their conservative campaign push-cards are frustrating to taxpaying constituents. But most Texans are unaware that state lawmakers are allowed to change their votes—after the fact—allowing them to mislead the public by simply rewriting history.

The most recent members of the “I was for it after I was against it” caucus are State Reps. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) – the GOP Caucus Chair – and Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller).

On Thursday, State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) laid out an amendment to House Bill 25, a bill he coauthored with State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston). The original measure proposed tapping the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) – commonly referred to as the “rainy day” fund – for $70 million to restore funding to a program for children on Medicaid.

Krause’s amendment proposed a new, alternative financing method, which would redirect disaster relief funds away from an account controlled by the Office of the Governor to the Medicaid program. Doing so would prevent lawmakers from extracting an additional $70 million from the ESF, which conservatives have rightly opposed.

After all, lawmakers could certainly provide disaster relief in the event a natural disaster actually occurred. But Democrats, along with liberal Davis, rose in opposition to Krause’s common sense fix.

Davis moved to table Krause’s amendment, which is a procedural move to delay a vote on the amendment itself, often disposing of it altogether. Parker, Capriglione, most Democrats, and a handful of liberal Republicans voter in favor of Davis’s motion.

But it wasn’t enough, as the effort to block Krause failed by a 53-73 vote.

Parker and Capriglione found themselves on the losing side of a vote opposing a more fiscally conservative measure. But more notably, they sided with most Democrats and a handful of liberal Republican Straus-loyalists in the process. This would certainly not look good to conservative constituents back home.

So, they simply changed their record votes by claiming they “intended” to vote the other way.

Texans can and should have a vigorous debate on public policy. And with any debate – including those between members of the same party – there is bound to be disagreement. But lawmakers who mislead constituents by rewriting history should not be tolerated.

Below is the original 53-73 vote on Davis’ failed motion to table Krause’s amendment, prior to Parker and Capriglione switching sides. A screen shot of Parker’s “correction” can be found HERE; Capriglione’s, HERE.

Clear Lake Tea Party presents 85th Lege Update

Featuring Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans and Members of the Texas Freedom Caucus

 

No automatic alt text available.

 

Voter Fraud Database Tops 1,000 Proven Cases

 

As the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity convenes its first meeting on Wednesday, the issue of voter fraud in American elections has become even more contentious and hyperbolic.

One of the left’s main arguments against reform is that voter fraud simply does not occur. How liberals arrive at this conclusion, we cannot say.

Time and again, studies and analyses point to one incontrovertible conclusion: that voter fraud is a real and pressing issue that deserves serious solutions, and The Heritage Foundation has the evidence to prove it.

On Thursday, The Heritage Foundation is releasing a new edition of its voter fraud database. Featuring well over 100 new cases, the database documents 1,071 instances of voter fraud spanning 47 states, including 938 criminal convictions.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone. Find out more >>

This revamped edition of the database separates cases by type of disposition, allowing readers to easily distinguish not only what type of fraud occurred but the outcome of the case—criminal convictions, pre-trial diversion programs, and other types of adjudication used in various states and counties across the United States.

Below are a few of the egregious examples recently added to the database.

Virginia

Andrew Spieles, a former James Madison University student, pleaded guilty to a charge stemming from his false submission of 18 voter registration forms during the summer of 2016.

He had been working for Harrisonburg VOTES, a voter registration organization affiliated with the Democratic Party, and used false birth dates and Social Security numbers to register deceased persons to vote. Spieles was given prison time for his crime.

This incident is just one of hundreds of cases in the database where individuals illegally registered dead people, names out of the phone book, or others to vote.

While Spieles was caught before votes could be cast on behalf of those falsely registered individuals, there have been many other cases in which ballots were successfully cast in the name of deceased people.

In fact, a 2012 Pew study concluded that 1.8 million voters remained on the rolls after their passing—a grave vulnerability to the integrity of our elections.

Maryland

Fredericus Hubertus Slicher, an illegal alien living in Baltimore, was convicted of numerous charges in 2014. He was residing illegally in the United States, collecting Medicare and Social Security benefits, and voting in U.S. elections.

Slicher had been present in the United States illegally since his temporary work visa expired in 1969. He was convicted of child abuse in 2004, was a registered sex offender, and yet he continued to vote numerous times despite being ineligible.

His case was referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, one year’s supervised release, and was ordered to pay $48,928 in restitution.

The newest additions to the database included a dozen cases of illegal voting by noncitizens. This is a particularly important issue to address, as each ballot cast by a noncitizen effectively nullifies the ballot of an eligible voter, effectively disenfranchising American citizens.

Ohio

Debbie Tingler of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, pleaded guilty (Case No. 12 CR 005249) to illegal voting in 2013. She had registered to vote, requested absentee ballots, and submitted those ballots under two names—Debbie Tingler and Deborah Tingler.

She was given a suspended sentence of 120 days’ imprisonment, and she was ordered to pay a $200 fine and court costs.

Tingler’s experience is not uncommon. There are dozens of cases in the database where individuals voted multiple times in the same election.

Given the fact that few states have adequate policies and procedures in place to detect and deter fraud—and prosecutors seldom prioritize these cases—it is likely that far more double voters, absentee-ballot fraudsters, and ineligible voters get away scot-free than are ever brought to justice.

The Heritage Foundation’s voter fraud database is by no means comprehensive, but its 1,071 proven instances of fraud, which took place across all manner of elections and in nearly every state, highlight the importance—and the urgency—of the work of the Election Integrity Commission.

What is needed now is more data to permit analysis aimed at determining, among other things, whether the nation’s voter registration records are accurate or riddled with errors.

In the coming months, the commission—which includes Heritage’s own Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow and one of the nation’s foremost election law experts—will seek to gather this information.

Unfortunately, so far, even innocuous requests for public voter records have been met with hyperbolic rhetoric and stonewalling in some states.

This begs the question, why? If fraud is as rare as liberals say, and if state protections against it are as robust as we are told, why withhold data that would prove these claims?

Perhaps liberals are afraid that the data might, in fact, say the opposite.

One can deny facts for only so long, and with this newest release of The Heritage Foundation’s voter fraud database, the evidence is clear and incontrovertible: Voter fraud is real, and we ignore it at our own peril.

Texas Senators and TAB

Senate Committee on State Affairs with testimony by Chris Wallace of the Texas Association of Business

Texas Senators and TAB

Texas HD23 primary is one to watch for activist Republicans

July 21, 2017 By 

hd23 Wayne faircloth Mayes Middleton

Primary challenges aren’t all that unusual in the Texas Republican Party but most of the time it is some fringe candidate with no chance of winning going up against an ‘establishment’ guy. In the race for Texas HD23, we do see an ‘establishment’ type in the form of Rep. Wayne Faircloth, who was first elected in 2014. But this time he has a very, very serious challenger by the name of Mayes Middleton. I suspect that Rep. Faircloth is in deep trouble.

Why? Because Faircloth has no grassroots or activist support. Truth is, he never has but he didn’t have a serious challenger in the 2014 primary and he was viewed as the best chance to take that seat from the Democrats after Craig Eiland retired. And it worked to everyone’s benefit as Galveston County was changing from blue to red. He hasn’t been a disaster for the party but neither has he been a leader. You can look at his committee assignmentsbills authored and press statements to understand this.

You can also look at his campaign finance reports, which I did.

FAIRCLOTH CONT EXP COH LOANS MEDIAN NUMBER CONT
15-Jan-17 $153,698 $44,185 $183,670 $30,000 $500 95
15-Jul-17 $10,875 $43,241 $155,786 $30,000 $250 13

I included the January report to give a better representation of his fundraising ability and number of contributors. If you look at it casually, it looks like his fundraising is okay, not stellar but I’ve seen much worse. The problem comes when you look deeper. Here is what his report from January looks like if you break it down into something most of us can understand.

15-JAN-17 CONTRIBUTIONS MEDIAN NUMBER OF CONT
In-Kind $77,173 $2,000 17
Entities $66,000 $500 57
Individuals $10,525 $250 21

So in reality, more than half of his reported contributions were In-Kind, mostly from large PAC’s including him in their mailers for the November 2016 election. That’s nice and helpful but it doesn’t allow you to direct your campaign. Plus, most of those organizations won’t be as big of players in a primary challenge.

As for the Entities, those are also PAC’s but they gave directly to his campaign. Again, those types of organizations usually aren’t in play in a primary because they need to mitigate their risk if their chosen candidate loses.

The most telling are the 21 Individual donations. Sure, he had some big name support (James Dannenbaum, Charles Butt, Tilman Fertitta) and it is possible that they could write much larger checks if they need to. The problem is that he had one, count ’em one, contribution under a $100. That’s a problem in a primary, where enthusiastic support is needed versus a general where it is more about a voter’s party choice.

Okay, enough about Rep. Faircloth. What about his challenger? Well, let’s take a look.

MIDDLETON CONT EXP COH LOANS MEDIAN NUMBER CONT
15-Jul-17 $59,809 $36,790 $480,019 $485,000 $10 250

Obviously the first thing anyone is going to notice is that $485,000 loan. I don’t care who you are, that’s a lot of money. The second thing that the more observant are going to notice is that the numbers don’t balance. I mean, if you loan yourself $485k, raise $60k, spend $37k, you should have more than $480k on hand. Why? Beats me. I see this all the time and have never tried to figure out why. Perhaps you can.

More important for our purposes is the rest of the report. Recall from Rep. Faircloth’s report that 93% of his contributions were from Entities, not Individuals. Mr. Middleton, on the other hand, had one contribution from an Entity, that being Hoover Slovacek LLP for $500. Interestingly, that is the firm of the Harris County Republican Party Finance Chair Joe Slovacek.

Not that Mr. Middleton didn’t score a few big donors, he certainly did. Perennial large Republican donors Holly Frost, Windi Grimes and Wilkes Farris made large contributions. But they aren’t the story this time. The story is the number of smaller contributors and who they are. I’m not going to name them all but everyone knows Galveston County Tax Assessor Collector Cheryl Johnson. And then you have the Senate District Director for SD11 Scott Bowen. Further down the list you have the Texas SREC rep from SD11 Tanya Robertson. The activists in the district seem to have chosen a side.

And instead of one contribution under $100, Mr. Middleton has 179 individual contributors at $50 or less. Make fun of small donors all you want but if you give a guy $5 and you live in his district, you are going to vote for him.

Mr. Middleton also has the enthusiastic backing of the Empower Texans mail list, an important force in Republican primaries. Like I said earlier, I suspect that Rep. Faircloth is in trouble.