Voices United: GCISD Trustee Rodriguez speaks about Board Policy Violations

Before the Board of Trustees meeting on April 24, Trustee Jorge Rodriguez requested several items to be added to the agenda. Board President Casey Ford did not add them. You can listen here to the meeting, when Rodriguez asks Ford why they are not on the agenda.

Click above to hear the voice of GCISD Board Member Jorge Rodriguez.

Below are the eight questions that Trustee Jorge Rodriguez asked Board President Casey Ford to add to the public meeting agenda on April 24, 2023. Ford did not add these items to the Board’s agenda, nor did Ford explain why.

Despite Rodriguez’ request for transparency from Ford, the public still does not know the following:

  1. Update on the lawsuit by James Whitfield against Trustee Tammy Nakamura and GCISD (with specific request that the district’s counsel, Brackett & Ellis, be present at the meeting to answer questions)
  2. The agreement reached in the lawsuit by Mitchell Ryan against GCISD and Jorge Rodriguez as the Board President including an update on the contents of the agreement reached by Casey Ford and his attorney Tim Davis with Mitchell Ryan and Mitchell Ryan’s attorney (along with a specific request that Brackett & Ellis also be present to answer questions)
  3. Report on instructional materials and new books — including a list of books to be approved by the school board and, if any books had been removed from the libraries and the reason for removal.
  4. The two-way dual language program — to continue the discussion from the March 2023 meeting along with a vote from the school board on whether to continue or eliminate the two-way dual language program.
  5. Personnel Report — an update on the job openings and resignations (along with a comparison to the numbers of resignations from last year).
  6. High school schedules — block scheduling versus an 8-period day (continuing discussion from March 2023 meeting and getting answers to questions that were not answered during March 2023 meeting)
  7. Advanced Academics — a GCISD district comparison to surrounding districts.
  8. GCISD evaluation for the previous year (2022) and the district’s 2023 goals.

Deep Dive: Why is the GCISD Board no longer taking a strong stance to protect public schools? 

Vouchers in the 2023 Texas Legislature: A Timeline

Newest headlines at the top

Monday, May 15: Texas Committee on Public Education invites speakers for new voucher bill SB 8:

Video: Vouchers/Educations Spending Accounts redistribute taxpayer dollars from public schools; yet private schools are not required to provide federal protections for special education students or accept all students:

Friday, April 7: Texas House comes out against school vouchers in initial vote. GCISD’s Texas Representative Giovanni Capriglione voted in favor of vouchers. The Representative for the Euless area of GCISD, Salman Bhojani, voted against school vouchers. Source: The Texas Standard

Tuesday, March 29th: Bill that would give parents state funds to pay for private schools moves to the full Senate for a vote. AUSTIN, Texas — (The Texas Tribune) A sweeping public education bill that would allow families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools and restrict classroom lessons on sexual orientation received initial approval Tuesday and will now go before the Senate for a full vote. … The bill would give parents who opt out of the public school system access to a savings account with up to $8,000 in taxpayer money, per student, which could be used to pay for a child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring.” Source WFAA-TV

Vouchers in GCISD? A Deep Dive Summary:

  • Are vouchers for private schools a better alternative to “government schools” aka public schools? The answer is no.
  • Some in our community are friendly to vouchers or charter schools, including a former mayor now-school board candidate.
  • Breaking with PTA for the first time in history, the GCISD New School Board Majority removed the annual “no vouchers, no charter schools” statement from its legislative priorities this year.

What is the thread connecting the former Mayor of Colleyville with the GCISD school board decision to break from a long-standing PTA supported initiative with the Texas legislature‘s move to provide $8K for private schools?

The answer: School Vouchers to fund private charter schools. 

And why should GCISD citizens care about these connections?

Families who value their public school education and the community at large should question why a charter school supporter like Newton is now running to be a trustee of a public school. 

Part I. As mayor, Richard Newton endorsed a charter school company called ResponsiveEd “that would like to get a school started in Colleyville.”

The scene is Spring 2021 at a Colleyville City Council Meeting. Mayor Richard Newton, who is a current candidate for GCISD School Board, spoke from the dais about his meeting with ResponsiveEd, a company that runs charter schools in Texas in collaboration with Hillsdale College. Newton says he is a “strong supporter” of Hillsdale College, especially its curriculum of Christian education and the Constitution.

In the video, Newton says the company’s representative has talked to a few pastors in town because the company would like to get a school started in Colleyville.

Watch the video and read the email between Newton and the rep, Kalese Whitehurst:

What is Classical Education? Do you notice that the document titled ResponsiveEd (above), there is no mention of “Christian education,” which is what then-Mayor Richard Newton stated that he liked about Hillsdale/ResponsiveEd bringing to Colleyville. Why does the document not state that a ResponsiveEd school is Christian — is this what “Classical education” means? Yes, according to a cover story by Christianity Today that provides insight into Classical Education and states “evangelicals are becoming the new champions of the pagan classics.” Read more documentation about the Classical education movement on Wikipedia.
Several community speakers at the GCISD Board of Trustees’ open forum have begun promoting a return to Classical education. Why?


Part II. Texas Monthly exposes ResponsiveEd for voucher scheme that would divert public school funds to private companies

Source: Inside the Secret Plan to Bring Private School Vouchers to Texas, from Texas Monthly, by Forrest Wilder, October 18, 2022

“Political operatives descended on the Hill Country town of Wimberley with a scheme to send taxpayer dollars to private schools. Now they’re shopping the same blueprint elsewhere. …”

“One of the authors of the plan was Aaron Harris, a Fort Worth–based GOP consultant … along with Monty Bennett, a wealthy Dallas hotelier who dabbles in what he regards as education reform. …”

“The other author was Kalese Whitehurst, an executive with the charter school chain Responsive Education Solutions, based in Lewisville, a half hour north of Dallas. …”

“The scheme was complex but it pursued a simple goal: turning taxpayer dollars intended for public education into funds for private schools. The kids would be counted as Wimberley ISD students enrolled at the Achievement Campus, thus drawing significant money to the district. (In Texas, public schools receive funding based in large part on how many students attend school each day.) But the tax dollars their “attendance” brought to the district would be redirected to private institutions across the state. …”

“The most transformative of a set of policies often described by proponents as “school choice,” vouchers allow students to attend private schools using taxpayer dollars. For more than sixty years, school-choice enthusiasts have tried, and failed, to create a voucher program in Texas. Texas’s first dalliance with vouchers came in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation of public schools.

The Texas Monthly article concludes: “When I spoke to [Joe Basel, the self-styled “systemic disruption” consultant], he conceded that his reputation didn’t help his cause. But he hasn’t given up on passing the voucher program. “It’s still my goal,” he told me. “Other districts are considering it.” He declined to name which ones.”


Part III. For the first time in history, the GCISD New School Board Majority voted 4-3 to remove the annual “no vouchers, no charter schools” statement from its 2023 legislative priorities — signaling support for the state to take even more funding away from GCISD and abandoning their oath to GCISD families.

A voucher system gives money to private and religious schools without requiring them to follow the same accountability standards and open admission policy as public schools.

The Texas Legislature convenes every other year.  The School Board creates a list of legislative priorities to communicate the district’s needs and goals to Texas Senators and Representatives as they write and pass laws. Independently, the PTA will create its own legislative priorities. 

Two Years Ago
February 2021

In 2021, the GCISD Board of Trustees opposed vouchers and charter school expansion in their legislative priorities.

Similarly, the GCISD Council of PTAs’ #1 priority was keeping public dollars in public education

PTAs from every school in GCISD have membership in the Council.
Enlarge Image from 2021

Then … the New School Board Majority took over GCISD in 2022.

The pro-public education verbiage from 2021 is missing in the Board’s Legislative Priorities for 2023.

Still, the PTA remains strongly pro-public education.

An opposition to vouchers is the top PTA Legislative Priority for 2023.

Feb. 27, 2023 – The board reviewed a request from the PTA to support PTA’s legislative priorities.

The New School Board Majority — Casey Ford, Tammy Nakamura, Kathy Florence-Spradley, and Shannon Braun — voted to table the PTA’s request to support them. 

Board President Ford said, “It’s still unclear who has been behind the scenes working on this request.”

GCISD Trustee Becky St. John in her dissenting vote reminded the board that knowingly allowing the state to take away funds from our district in this way violates their code of ethics to work against GCISD and supports diverting public funds.

Watch the video

Allowing no discussion, the GCISD Board of Trustees refuses to endorse the PTAs’ legislative priorities.

Sometimes, seeing events on a timeline helps us understand the bigger picture. What do you see? What questions do you have so far?

  • Why are the extremists pretending they don’t know our Council of PTAs?
  • Why is our Public School Board of Trustees refusing to collaborate with PTA on a pro-public school stance?
  • Historically, only communities with low-performing public schools get charter school approval. Is this why they are cutting funding and creating chaos?
  • Would someone trying to bring a charter school to Colleyville be someone we should elect to serve on our public school board of trustees?
  • Who is eyeing our community for voucher/charter schools — and whose pockets will benefit from the payout potential?

Part IV. GCISD citizens should ask, as communities all over the country are asking: Can a private school serve students better than a publicly funded school?

We need to be aware that the same organization and people who wanted to take over Wimberly ISD “would like to get a school started in Colleyville,” said then-Mayor Richard Newton.

Will private schools be accountable to taxpayers? Currently the State does not require private/charters to administer the STAAR student performance test, to provide financial reporting or accountability, or to comply with Special Education rules.

Private schools may exclude students because of a diagnosis that the private school is not equipped to serve, such as dyslexia or diabetes.

Did you know: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. However, the ADA contains an exemption for religious institutions, including religious schools. Therefore, the ADA does not apply to religious schools or offer students attending these schools protection from discrimination.” Source: American Diabetes Association

What if a family is suddenly unable to afford tuition, if a parent dies or loses a lucrative job? How soon would the student need to transfer to the free, under-funded public school? Private schools also rely heavily on private donations from families instead of fully rolling the cost of service into tuition, likely eliminating families who can only afford to attend due to the government subsidized education voucher.

Private schools may reject students who do not adhere to the religious code of the school. It’s already happened in a Colleyville private school. In 2020, a longtime student was expelled from the private religious school after coming out as gay.

In summary

A takeover of our public school system by private schools will create an underclass of under-educated people in a single generation.

Vouchers don’t add up for Texas children. It is a sneaky move to privatize education, will immediately harm our local schools, and in the end, dismantle the right to a public education in America.

Don’t give up on public schools. Everyone belongs in a public school. We are GCISD!

Links for more

School choice bill tries to sway: Will focus on parental rights, increased funding help GOP pass tuition savings accounts?

Governor Abbott tours private Christian schools (Exclusively) to make the case for vouchers

Carthage ISD superintendent says vouchers would be detrimental to public schools: “There is nothing conservative about taking public dollars and then providing them to people with no accountability for how those dollars are spent or the outcomes associated with those dollars”

Billionaires and their investors are impacting education policies in Colorado and especially in Denver Public Schools (DPS)

Deep in the Pockets of Texas: A CNN Documentary about the big, big money aimed at destroying public schools.

Jesus Said to Expel the Gay Kid

High School Senior Kicked Out of Private Colleyville School for Being Gay

Pastors for Texas Children — Anti-Voucher Talking Points

March 30 update: What to watch for: The current bill states that current private school students are not eligible, so what is the harm? As in many policy roll-outs, a bill is reduced to what is most likely to be accepted and seems innocuous, but then once the ball gets rolling, it is more easily updated in future sessions. And before you know it, voila, a completely privatized system of education, no longer public schools for public good.

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Inside the Secret Plan to Bring Private School Vouchers to Texas

INSIDE THE SECRET PLAN TO BRING PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS TO TEXAS: Political operatives descended on the Hill Country town of Wimberley with a scheme to send taxpayer dollars to private schools. Now they’re shopping the same blueprint elsewhere.

***

The same players involved in Wimberley are actively involved in GCISD:

1. AARON HARRIS ($15,000 donor to Casey Ford’s election PAC)

2. MONTY BENNETT (Dallas Express owner/publisher, and donor to Tammy Nakamura)

3. KALESE WHITEHURST(met with Mayor Newton and presented the plan for a Responsive Ed charter campus in Colleyville)

Seems like those sounding the alarm on the plan to destroy GCISD and bring in charter schools have been right to be worried.

***

From the Article:

“In a document obtained by Texas Monthly, stamped “Confidential” and dated May 3 … a Republican political operative and a politically connected charter-school executive laid out an explosive proposal for [Wimberley] ISD. Apparently, the plan had been in the works for months and had been vetted by the outgoing superintendent. … One of the authors of the plan was Aaron Harris, a Fort Worth–based GOP consultant who has made a name for himself by stoking—with scant evidence—fears of widespread voter fraud. In June, he cofounded a nonprofit called Texans for Education Rights Institute, along with Monty Bennett, a wealthy Dallas hotelier who dabbles in what he regards as education reform. The other author was Kalese Whitehurst, an executive with the charter school chain Responsive Education Solutions, based in Lewisville, a half hour north of Dallas.” Read more