Two West Texas oil tycoons have been donating millions of dollars to influence Texas politics, with the intention of completely replacing all public schools across the state with Christian private schools, according to a new report from CNN.
Tim Dunn, Farris Wilks, and their wives have collectively donated over $29 million to far-right politicians and political action committees (PACs) over the last decade, according to Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) reports. Dorothy Burton, a former GOP activist and former associate of the two men, told CNN, “The goal is to tear up, tear down public education to nothing and rebuild it … the way God intended education to be.”
Over the past decade, PACs funded by the pair sent over $15 million to Sen. Ted Cruz, who has since pushed the baseless narrative that critical race theory is being taught in public schools. Two prominent recipients of donations by the pair at the state level include Rep. Matt Krause, who used his position on the House Committee on General Investigating to attempt to ban hundreds of books from school libraries simply because they discuss racial and LGBTQ+ experiences, and Rep. Valoree Swanson, who authored the bill limiting the participation of transgender students in public school sports.
Dunn and Wilks seem to have the ultimate goal of systematically defunding public schools through private school voucher schemes. When Republican state Sen. Kel Seliger, who had received donations from Dunn in the past, publicly came out against private school vouchers, the pair turned against him. Seliger spent the next several campaign cycles fending off primary challenges funded by Dunn and Wilks.
Multi-millionaire Tim Dunn is the chairman of the board for two conservative advocacy organizations: Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. He is the vice chairman of the board for the far-right Texas Public Policy Foundation. Besides pushing public school privatization, these organizations have pushed anti-scientific propaganda regarding climate change and pushed for the ban of critical healthcare for transgender youth.
Farris Wilks, who has an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, made his billions through a company specializing in hydraulic fracturing, a procedure for extracting oil that has known negative environmental effects. Along with his donations to anti-education politicians, Wilks was also instrumental in launching two media organizations, the Daily Wire and Prager University, which publish conservative propaganda directed at young people.
Dunn and Wilks are just two of the big-moneyed interests aligned against our public education system. To fight back this election season and in the Legislature, we need resources and encourage AFT members to make a small monthly donation to our political fund.