Brian Russell: Public Schools Hater

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.

8 thoughts on “Brian Russell: Public Schools Hater

  1. I don’t understand how someone who is “afraid to leave their [sic] kids in the hands of the government 5 days a week, 9 months a year” can “adequately understand the problems facing Texas education.” Talk about a non sequitur. If you don’t believe enough in the system to put your kids in it, and you’re on record siding with those who refer to it in the most pejorative terms like “tools of perversion,” why would you even want to be on a board overseeing it? Russell can teach his kids at home — I have no problem with that. He can use whatever curriculum he wants for them — I have no problem with that. But once you opt out of the system, don’t try to run it on behalf of those still in it. Sager is absolutely right about that.

    As for McDonald, let me say this (I don’t do Facebook): I’m way right of center and I support TFN. One can be a conservative or a Republican without kowtowing to the Religious Right. Barry Goldwater spent his later years out of office taking on the Religious Right because he understood that (a) they weren’t true conservatives but were drawn in by sympathies that were tangentially congruent with some aspects of conservatism, and (b) they posed a tyrannical threat to liberty because they were much less “religious” than authoritarian. When Jerry Falwell said that “all good Christians should be concerned” about the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, Goldwater replied, “‘I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.” Goldwater was conservative; Falwell wasn’t — he was a colossal bigotry-prone f**k-up who inserted himself into politics and made the nation, and the GOP, worse off for it. Thankfully, he was unable to realize all of his theocratic tendencies; unfortunately, he inspired a lot of people who are still trying to subvert the Constitution.

    TFN isn’t trying to undermine anything which shouldn’t be undermined. If calling attention to an out-of-control school board is undermining, then we need more of it! TFN is working to uphold standards that Texas schools should be teaching rather than subjecting children to theocratic indoctrination based on phony history (David Barton’s BS), pseudo-science (creationism as a competing “theory” alongside evolution), and ignorance masquerading as health education (abstinence-only). This is an area which shouldn’t be left to extremist partisanship on either side, yet the Religious Right bloc on the SBOE has undermined the education of Texas children by imposing a partisan agenda rather than improving legitimate standards for courses like science, history, and health.

    1. Thanks, Lucky. We’ve been hearing similar points from more and more conservatives lately. Most of those comments are told us in private (especially from elected officials) because they don’t want the usual vicious attacks from those who don’t want to hear the truth: the fringe right is undermining political conservatism as a movement.

  2. @Tony McDonald: This blog only quoted what you wrote on Facebook and reminded you that this present election cycle isn’t any different than previous cycles with respect to partisanship. Quoting you isn’t attacking you; neither is replying civilly to what you wrote. As you weren’t attacked by TFN, you shouldn’t yourself on the back for a commendation you neither earned nor received. It’s unbecoming.

    Since you’ve chosen to engage in this discussion, though, could you please explain how being “100% pro life” — as qualified in robocalls (Russell) and mailers (Farney) — has to do with serving Texans on our State Board of Education. If you genuinely believe that it’s “tantamount to child abuse to put one’s kids in one of these institutions nowadays,” how does the fact both GOP candidates in the run-off are playing up their views on abortion and traditional family values relate to making the public schools better?

  3. @aab3w: Better, worse, same… take your pick.

    I decided to step back and let others decide this run-off (I’m a GOP voter, voted in the GOP primary, and am eligible to vote in tomorrow’s run-off). I’d already decided a while back that Russell was entirely unacceptable to me because he was a home-schooler (when opt out of the system you should opt out of running it) and his views were way too extreme for me. That included getting a robocall on his behalf from a pro-life outfit (Joe Pojman) during the primary as well as reading his agreement with the Religious Right bloc on the present SBOE.

    The scary thing to me about Farney is that she’s tried to out-right wing Russell. Russell is pro-life, so she trumps her credentials as a pro-lifer. Then she tries to one-up him on “family values” issues in her mailer by accusing Russell of supporting judicial candidates who “voted to legalize homosexual conduct” and attempts to liken Russell to Barack Obama. I appreciate that she has to motivate GOP primary voters who tend to be very right of center (especially considering Russell’s grassroots support among the religious right), but she had legitimate issues to raise in her favor and against Russell — like her background in education, his opting out of the public school system, etc. Instead, she’s playing the “family values” and “pro-life” and “sanctity of marriage” cards just like Russell has. That’s what this district and the SBOE don’t need. Now that she’s played that kind of hand in the run-off and tried to out-right wing a way-out right winger, how can she make herself back into a sensible, moderate, common sense candidate again?

  4. Brian Russell is a bona fide wack job. I approached him about Dunbars policies and got a
    biblical reponse about not arguing with fools. That pretty much sums him up. sadly, nuts like this are the norm in the Texas GOP these days.
    as if someone who believes creationism, a discreditted non scientific religious nut case that is
    totally discreditted belongs in our science classrooms. This sums up Russell, a hater, a religious wing nut,
    a home schooler with a few bucks to support his habit, and an attorney to boot….NASTY NASTY NASTY

    Will Fraser
    Austin Texas