FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 20, 2022
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ICYMI: Texas Monthly Exposes a Plot to Funnel Texas Taxpayer Dollars to Private Schools
In the story about Wimberley ISD, reporter Forrest Wilder uncovers the shady dealings of charter school operators, right-wing consultants, and school voucher proponents.
AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, Texas Monthly published an explosive and deeply researched story, “Inside the Secret Plan to Bring Private School Vouchers to Texas,” by reporter Forrest Wilder.
Now, the worst-kept secret in Texas is out: As public education advocates have long noted, the rapid expansion of privately run charter schools in Texas is not only a boon for grift but a potential backdoor for school vouchers that would send public dollars to private and religious schools.
Wilder’s story details a plot from several newly elected Wimberley ISD school board members, an outgoing superintendent, and a cabal of Republican strategists, out-of-state consultants, and “education reform” nonprofits to create a fake charter school in the district and redirect money and students around the state into private schools.
As the superintendent of Alief ISD tells Texas Monthly, the plan was “a Trojan horse for vouchers.”
The failed plan was convoluted but legal, exploiting a loophole in state law created by Senate Bill 1882 in 2017. And, as Wilder reports, it had the support of the governor and his education commissioner.
“The plan was backed not only by an out-of-town Republican operative and a charter- school chain with links to Governor Greg Abbott, but by a Wimberley-based right-wing provocateur who bills himself as a ‘systemic disruption consultant.’ Texas education commissioner Mike Morath—an Abbott appointee—also seemed to support the deal. “
The audacity of the scheme itself is notable, but some of the monied ringleaders are even more shocking. One central figure Texas Monthly cites is Joe Basel, a so-called “systemic disruption consultant” who moved to Wimberley from Minnesota in 2021 and has been arrested for entering a U.S. senator’s offices on false pretenses.
“Basel, who homeschools his two kids, ages five and seven, told me he was using Wimberley to force the Legislature’s hand on school choice. His plan for Wimberley was to have a pilot program up and running before the Lege session to prod waffling Republican legislators into backing a voucherlike school-choice program.”
Wilder’s reporting confirms, rather strikingly, what public education advocates have warned of for years: that wealthy forces are aligning to make a sustained push for school vouchers in Texas. In response to this story, Zeph Capo, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, said he hopes more Texans will come to know these voucher schemes for what they are: a false bill of goods for Texas families.
“The next time someone wants to talk about ‘school choice’ legislation, be it with voucher schemes or charter schools, I want every Texan to remember this,” Capo said. “Remember the ringleader of this stunt in Wimberley: an out-of-state grifter with an arrest record for harassing lawmakers and a worldview that prioritizes his wealthy friends’ deep pockets over our kids. Then remember that Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Education Commissioner Mike Morath were right there along with him.”
The Texas American Federation of Teachers represents 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.
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