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. Read More

From today’s TFN News Clips:

“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?”

— Texas State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, arguing that state board members don’t need to be finance experts to manage the $23 billion Permanent School Fund. Really.

Stay informed with TFN News Clips, a daily digest of news about politics and the religious right. Subscribe here.Read More

Once again we see evidence that the Legislature made a huge mistake last spring by not letting Texas voters decide whether to strip the State Board of Education of authority over managing the Permanent School Fund. (Republican leaders in the state Senate helped kill that and a number of other SBOE reform bills.) It has become increasingly apparent that board decisions on curriculum and textbooks are influenced by political shenanigans over how to invest the $20+ billion in the PSF. See here and here for earlier posts on this. Now the San Antonio Express-News reports that board members at the center of those shenanigans are pointing fingers at others. Read More

An Austin-based ethics watchdog filed complaints Monday with the Texas Ethics Commission against two State Board of Education members for not disclosing gifts they reportedly received from a firm seeking investment business with the board. The complaints filed by Texans for Public Justice urged the commission to determine whether Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, and Rene Nuñez, D-El Paso, violated public disclosure laws.

This is the latest development in the growing controversy over ethics concerns involving the state board’s management of the Permanent School Fund. The more than $20 billion fund pays for textbook purchases. The Texas Freedom Network has also called on state legislators to investigate ethics concerns swirling around the board.

Mr. Agosto and Mr. Nuñez have denied that they violated any disclosure laws, and a state board committee discussed revising ethics policies at a meeting earlier this month.

All of this comes just months after the Texas Senate failed to give voters the opportunity to remove the state board’s authority over the Permanent School Fund and give it to a panel of finance experts. The Texas House had overwhelmingly approved measures doing so.… Read More

On Friday two Texas State Board of Education members at the center of recent stories about ethics concerns denied that they have done anything wrong. Check out reports on this from the Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman and Dallas Morning News.

The denials came on the same day the state board’s Finance/Permanent School Fund Committee discussed whether the board should make any changes to its ethics policies. Some committee members argued that those policies should be clearer, should align more closely with policies for other state agencies and should make reporting requirements the same for board members and firms bidding for the board’s business. They also wanted to give board members time to review and possibly contest any questionable statements in bidders’ disclosure forms before those disclosures are made public.

State board chair Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, said she especially wanted changes that would encourage board members to avoid even the perception of ethics problems when they carry out their official duties.

Well, that suggestion sounds good to us. Obeying the letter of the law might protect board members from prosecution, but it won’t necessarily assure the general… Read More

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