A bill from Republican Senator Larry Taylor proposing radical changes to the management of our Permanent School Fund is headed for a public hearing on April 9th in Austin. If it passes into law, it will be one of the biggest government power grabs ever by the State of Texas.
The Texas Permanent School Fund has been a great achievement among the States, the largest of its kind in the Union. Established in 1845, the PSF slowly became a piggy-bank for myopic politicians who loaned it out to the railroads and used it to fund the expensive war with the United States during Texas years with the Confederacy. The funds necessarily dwindled under such an arrangement. Learning from their mistakes, when the 1876 Constitution was fashioned, its framers removed the fund from the grasp of the permanent political class and placed it under the elected State Board of Education. For over a hundred years, this arrangement has served Texas well, and kept the politicians’ grubby little fingers off the PSF. However, if Governor Abbott has his way, that will all soon change.
SB 2440, enabling legislation for the proposed Constitutional amendment SJR78, is a bill now making its way through the current legislature, and it has a lot of Texans concerned. What the bill proposes is to strip management of the Permanent School Fund from the elected SBOE to an appointed committee called the “Texas Education Investment Management Organization.” Whereas the SBOE is directly accountable to the voters of Texas, the proposed TEIMO would only be accountable to the governor.
There is no doubt that there needs to be additional transparency, accountability, and oversight of the PSF, but removing it from the control of an already elected body places a layer of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats between Texans and the PSF. Actions like this never end well.
This bill was doubtless crafted to meet Abbott’s declared 2019 so-called “emergency” legislative priorities, specifically relating to his demand for “school finance reform.” If this bill is supported by the governor (as is the rumor), this move is the latest in a series of ideologically questionable moves on the part of Governor Abbott.
Back in 2018, Abbott tried and failed to push through a “Red Flag” bill that was described by some as “gun confiscation,” and left many Abbott supporters scratching their heads about whose side he was on. In the same vein, using last year’s school shooting as justification for it, and produced to fill another “emergency” priority of Abbott’s, Republican Senator Jane Nelson’s SB 10 (if passed) would establish a new mental health “consortium” in the public schools that would be funded partially by HHS (with its federal strings) and be empowered to take actions they deem necessary about your child’s mental health without parental permission.
Now, there’s SB 2440, completing a trifecta of an anti-Liberty agenda, being pushed by a Republican governor. With this governor supporting gun-grabs, encumbering Texas with more federal mandates, coming down against parental rights, and enlarging government by seizing control of off-limits education dollars, what separates him from Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and the worst of the big-government Democrats in Washington?
In this legislative session there is enormous pressure by Republican leadership to vote against the best interests of Texans. The 2018 mid-terms lessened GOP control on Texas government. Because of their panic over what might happen in 2020, Republican leadership is cynically calculating that they will stand better politically if they betray their base and tilt left than if they stick to their stated principles. However, they do not fully appreciate how this foolish gambit will widen the divide between Texans and the political class. Did the Republican leadership learn nothing from when the grassroots forced out the intractable former Speaker of the Texas House? Evidently. Perhaps Abbott, himself, may be headed for a similar fate.
Nevertheless, the voters have an opportunity to let the legislature (and the governor) know that you expect them to vote “no” on this shameless anti-constitutional, anti-liberty power grab.
The hearing for SB2440 and SJR78 will be held at 9:00 AM, Tuesday, April 9, 2019 in room E1.028 in the Texas Capitol. If you cannot be at the hearing to voice your opposition to these two pieces of legislation, contact your State Senator and let them hear from you.