Brian Russell: Public Schools Hater

by Dan Quinn

When Cynthia “Public Schools Are Tools of Perversion” Dunbar recruited Austin attorney Brian Russell to run for the seat she is vacating on the Texas State Board of Education, the obvious question was whether Russell shares her contempt for public education.

We got a partial answer when it was revealed that Russell home-schools his kids. Then yesterday the Austin American-Statesman’s Jason Embry reported Russell’s favorable reaction to an anti-public schools screed posted to Facebook by an officer of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT).

Tony McDonald, YCT’s vice chairman for legislative affairs, was responding to an endorsement of Russell’s Republican runoff opponent Marsha Farney of Georgetown by Alan Sager. (Judging from their campaign materials, Russell and Farney appear to be in a contest to prove which is the strongest opponent of abortion. How does that have anything to do with the State Board of Education?)

Sager, former chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, offered a number of criticisms of Russell, including that “he has no credibility since he does not send his own children to public school.” In response,¬†McDonald insists that “to criticize (Russell) because he does not send his kids to public schools is an illegitimate attack”:

“Government run schools have gotten so bad that it is nearly tantamount to child abuse to put one’s kids in one of these institutions nowadays. It is exactly the sort of person who is afraid to leave their kids in the hands of the government 5 days a week, 9 months a year who I think adequately understands the problems facing Texas education.”

Scroll down a little ways to find Russell’s response: “Thanks Tony and well said.”

“Well said”? McDonald launches into a full-throttle attack on “government run schools” and charges that parents who send their children to those public schools are guilty of “child abuse.” And a guy who wants to manage those public schools for everyone else’s children but his own simply says, “well said”?

McDonald also attacks the Texas Freedom Network, charging that TFN is “working directly to undermine the board.” TFN, he writes, has “gone all-in in this election to flip the SBOE in ways that I cannot ever recall.”

Really? Perhaps McDonald is unaware of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that far-right mega-donors (like James Leininger) and political action committees spent in the 1990s and earlier this decade to fuel the religious right’s takeover of the state board. (See pages 22-23 of our 2008 report on the State Board of Education here.) TFN has simply made sure that voters are aware of the ways the state board’s far-right faction is undermining the education of Texas schoolchildren and turning the state into a national laughing stock. Truth is, people like Dunbar, Russell and McDonald are doing plenty themselves to wreck the credibility of the state board.

You can read McDonald’s full Facebook screed here.