Something’s Rotten Here

In today’s Texas Tribune story about the State Board of Education‘s management of the Permanent School Fund (PSF), much of the focus has been on this inane quote from board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna:

“If you sit on the mental health commission, do you have to be retarded? If you sit on the [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission], do you have to be a drunk?”

Bradley was arguing that the board — made up mostly of non-finance types, like a dentist, lawyers, an insurance salesman and political activists — could do a fine job of managing the massive PSF. But perhaps more interesting was Bradley’s sneering criticism of the fund’s permanent professional staff. He told the Tribune that the staff simply couldn’t be trusted because those employees work for the Texas Education Agency instead of reporting to the state board:

“Staff usually works against the board. Sometimes staff can facilitate an agenda of their own.”

And what agenda would that be, Mr. Bradley? Is the professional staff you hold with such contempt interested in something more than maximizing the return on investments for a fund that benefits Texas kids and public education? If that’s what you mean, bring forth the evidence.

In truth, there is no evidence at all that the professional staff has any other agenda than making sure the PSF investments perform well. But there are certainly legitimate questions that might help taxpayers learn more about the interests of Bradley and some of his board colleagues when it comes to the PSF — such as, how do board decisions about management of the fund influence decisions about curriculum and textbooks?

We noted some of these questions last fall. But it’s worthwhile to consider them here:

1. Why did Bradley and the rest of the board’s far-right faction support Democratic board member Rick Agosto‘s desire to fire the board’s previous investment consultant? And why did they support Agosto’s desire to hire, instead, New England Pension Consultants for that position? The PSF’s professional staff rated the fired consultant higher than NEPC. Moreover, NEPC’s proposed (and accepted) fee was the highest, by far.

2. Was support for hiring NEPC tied to Agosto’s votes that helped the far-right faction on a number of controversial board decisions, such as the adoption of flawed standards for public school Bible classes?

3. Why did Bradley receive his largest campaign donation in 2008 from a former colleague of Agosto at Harbor Capital Management? The donor, Edward Theobald of New Hampshire, typically donates to liberal and moderate Democrats in New England. What possible interest did he have in the election of a hard-right Republican in an obscure state board election in Texas?

No, Mr. Bradley, the interests of the PSF’s professional staff aren’t the issue here. At least, there is no evidence that they should be. The issue is why a $23 billion public trust should be left in the hands of politicians who have repeatedly expressed their contempt for real expertise and have engaged in what looks more and more like vote trading that puts political interests ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren.

13 thoughts on “Something’s Rotten Here

  1. Investigate !!!
    Whooo hoo!!!!
    Sounds like you’ve got something here!!!

    Remember in the old westerns when someone said “Get a rope. Let’s hang ’em?”
    The operative quote here would be “Get enough rope. So they can hang themselves.”

  2. Let’s go Biblical—and surely the good people of Texas can understand this. The Texas SBOE and the Texas Education Agency should be about the SAME THING, giving the children of Texas the best possible secondary education. They should be on good terms with each other and working together towards this common and quite noble goal. You know—cooperation. Frick and Frack. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans. Instead, Texas education has a “house divided against itself.” In the Bible, check out what Jesus says in Mark 3: 24-25: “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

    By Bradley’s own words, he states the already obvious, which we here at TFN Insider have long known. Texas education is a house divided against itself—and as Jesus predicted of such things—it is in danger of falling apart—and the conservative block on the Texas SBOE is the reason—the living divisor that is casting it asunder. Atomic fission, which is the splitting of atoms, releases heat, light, and radiation (e.g., alpha, beta, gamma). The SBOE’s splitting of education in Texas releases clownish shenanigans; politically embarrassing press; unforgettably weird statements (like the one’s quoted in the lead story above); nonscience masquerading as science; an ideology-laden, bizarro world social studies curriculum reminiscent of education in Castro’s Cuba, and many rays of public dismay.

    It all raises two simple questions:

    1) How long are the good people of Texas going to put up with this ridiculous carnival down at the Texas SBOE?”

    2) When are the good people of Texas going to reach out, fix this SBOE mess, and unify its house of education before it falls asunder, as Jesus predicted such things inevitably would if they are not fixed?

  3. I say, wait until Perry wins the GOP nom. by dragging it as far to the right as possible, then getting the national media to throw all the available sunlight onto these morons.

  4. Perry has been fervently pushing to the far-right for his entire political career. He is a far-right ideologue, he isn’t just doing it to get votes. I’m willing to bet that he’d relish any light shining on his theocratic works.

  5. Yeah, but now he’s got a great big track record of stupidity in governance. He has succeeded at nothing. He’s a national laughingstock. There are some better candidates out there from a management and business perspective. And they’re not whack jobs on the social issues. The business community may get tired of Perry before everyone else.
    There’s also several scandals that haven’t ripened on him yet. One of them is the execution of a guy on what is now known to bogus forensic science. And he knew that at the time.
    The key will be turnout.
    Hopefully the Dems can get a good candidate for Senate too. That would help.
    Nationally everyone’s predicting a rough time for the Dems. We’ll see. The economy may improve in spite of the Republicans efforts to screw it up, then it’s anybody’s guess.
    At any rate, responsible adults in Texas should take matters into their own hands and send these guys back to their used car lots or dentist offices or whatever.

  6. Charles to answer your first question: For as long as Texas remains scarlet red. That’s how long.

    David, Gov. Perry’s involvement with the unjust execution is going nowhere. It seems the issue is as dead as the executed man.

    As for a Democratic candidate, I was kind of rooting for Farouk Shami, but his name was not among the three D candidates printed in the San Antonio Express-News the other day. I don’t see Mr. Shami’s ads on TV anymore either. Maybe he pulled out.

  7. I don’t accept Texas’ redness. I know that’s the way it is for now, but the fact is, that’s based on hooey. It’s based on the “Reds” acceptance of propaganda that’s actually contrary t their best interests.
    That can only hold up for so long.
    Not that any one party is “pure”, but eventually the force of “honest dialogue” will break through and both parties will have to come to the table with something of substance.

    Again, it’s the sheer weight of Perry’s stupidity that will eventually cave in on him. I don’t think that one incident by itself will do him in, though it should. I don’t think there’s that many people in the sticks that even know about it. For one thing, I think the sheer stupidity will bring some embarrassing scrutiny of the national media, which will help his challenger.
    I don’t want to be promoting a particular candidate, but I do think there’s at least one who has a lot of positives, esp. in the education area. I was disappointed in the last election, because I thought that with a good candidate and a well-financed campaign, they could have gotten Cornyn out of there. I think that was a big mistake on the Dems part. He’s done nothing but wear a cowboy hat and say yes to Bush and no to Obama. I saw him riding a horse in his campaign commercial.

    The article posting the campaign status of the SBOE candidates was an important reminder that they themselves face election.
    I temporarily forgot about that.
    At any rate, even if I am over-optimistic, the long-term fix to the problems Texas faces has to do with convincing the public that we have to get these right wing idealogue (idio-logues is more like it) jackasses out of there.

  8. David says “….that’s based on hooey.” Hooey? I’d say it’s based on facts. You won’t believe me so check it out for yourself. The TX SBOE, for example, consists 10-5 in favor of the conservative extremists. And they were voted there; they didn’t just appear out of thin air onto the SBOE.

    I see no facts that would fuel your optimism. Look around all over the country. In FL, for instance, moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is getting hammered by right-winger Marco Rubio. And guess what? Marco Rubio is leading. This could be emblematic of the path the national GOP will continue to go. A virtual litmus test to purge the moderates, isolate and defeat them.

    But go right ahead wishin’ and hopin’ if it makes you feel better. Can’t hurt.

  9. What I meant is the “red” part of the electorate is allowing itself to believe hooey. I don’t think the “middle” of the electorate will sustain a belief in hooey forever.
    I’m hoping the tea party instigators, faddists, etc. whatever you want to call them will push the GOP primary candidates so far to the right that the middle won’t be able to hang with them when the general comes around, if the Dems have a good, solid, credible candidate.
    It’s possible that Rubio will ride the GOP wave to the right, too, but Crist might be able to beat him in a general as an independent, if the Dems don’t put up a very good candidate.
    You may be right, this may be a rough year for anyone to the left of Genghis Khan. We’ll see. There’s a long time to the election, though.
    I’m certainly sick and tired of right wing hysteria, myself, but I want to see a change, so I for one am going to out-persevere them.

  10. It’s gonna be a rough year for the Democrats, no doubt, but I agree it’s not the end of civilization…just yet. I will say that Obama has not done very much to get liberals fired up for the party. Many of us are watching him say one thing, and then the administration does the opposite. The DLC thought they’d replay Bill Clinton’s 8 years of “magic” by pushing a right-leaning centrist, but Obama doesn’t have the internet bubble to ride; in fact, he’s got an empty balloon and emphysema-ridden lungs, so the tricks that got Ol’ Slick Willie out of trouble is just digging Obama deeper in the hole. I personally don’t think that Obama is the answer to any of our problems, and I truly hope that a strong contender is found to run against him in 2012, as an Independent.

  11. I give up: Why does TFN always refer to Bradley as “David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna” with Beaumont lined out?

    1. David Bradley claims Beaumont, where he has a business office and rental unit, as the location of his residence when registering as a candidate and filing campaign finance reports. Beaumont is inside the State Board of Education district he represents, but he actually resides outside the district in Buna. In fact, even the Beaumont Enterprise has refused to endorse Bradley for re-election in the past in part because, it says, he really lives outside the district.