Before I relate this story, let me give the credit for this victory to Whom it belongs. At the risk of being “too religious”, the sovereign God orchestrated the people and the events to bring about this victory for the children of Texas. He gave us the opportunity to be a part of His success.
I want to emphasize that this is NOT a partisan victory for the Republican Party. This is a non-partisan victory for the schoolchildren of Texas. The power of the teachers unions in Texas is directed at maintaining the status quo in school funding that is so hurtful to schoolchildren and teachers. Parental choice in education through charter schools, voucher scholarships, and tuition tax credits will solve these problems, but the teachers unions fight against the expansion of these reforms for the selfish reason that they will lose financial and political power. The unions use their political power against both Democrats and Republicans with the goal of maintaining and enhancing their power.
This is the story behind the Texas Attorney General’s (AG) Opinion (GA-0774) prohibiting school districts from withholding PAC contributions from teachers’ payrolls. This ruling means that the only way that teachers unions will be able to raise political contributions is by asking teachers to write a check (or debit their credit card). Teachers don’t like to write checks, especially when they are going to politics that they don’t agree with.
Political muscle. A key step in weakening opposition to parental choice was passage of Paycheck Protection legislation, which forbids the teachers’ union from collecting money for political purposes without the express consent of the teacher. When Paycheck Protection took effect in Utah, funding to the teachers’ union political action committee (PAC) plummeted by approximately 90 percent. “They took a serious hit,” Peterson said. “It just shows you that when teachers have an option to contribute or not contribute to the political activities of their union, they’re not interested.”
I thought that perhaps we could do something similar in Texas, and if it dropped teachers union PAC contributions by 90%, it would be well worth the effort. In October 2007, I met with Denis Calabrese, founder the Patriot Group in Austin. He suggested that an Attorney General Opinion would be the simplest way to prevent the school districts from withholding PAC contributions. He sent me to Rep. Leo Berman’s office because, at the time, he was the chair of the House Elections Committee. He believed that since this question involved PAC money that the chair of the Elections Committee would have the authority to make the AG Opinion request.
I went to Rep. Berman’s office that month and talked with Patrick Dudley. He suggested that I visit with Royce Poinsett in the House Speaker’s (Craddick) office. I did and in January 2008 he recommended to Rep. Berman that he should file an AG Opinion request. Rep. Berman filed the formal request on March 18, 2008.
We then started to wait, wait, and wait 26 months. I would call Rep. Berman, and he would say, “I just called them last week and got no news.” After so many months, I just assumed it was dead; that someone had pulled the plug on the request because it was controversial. I had no expectation that it would ever see the light of day.
A friend gave me some hope. The friend found out that the AG’s office was waiting until the US Supreme Court gave their ruling on “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission”. This was a very important ruling regarding what type of “electioneering” activity was permissible for a corporate entity. The AG’s office thought that the federal ruling might affect their ruling at the state level so they waited for the federal ruling.
The federal ruling was decided on January 21, 2010. After that date passed, I started to get “hopefully impatient” that the AG Opinion request had not been trashed.
So here I am on May 14, 2010, amazed that six Texans (I hope I haven’t left anyone out) and the AG’s office, guided by God, were able to push back against the mighty teachers unions in Texas. This is the first victory in a long war for the schoolchildren, teachers, and families of Texas. Join with us to ensure that this is the first of many successful battles on the road to educational liberty.
Rep. Berman is going to have a press conference about the AG Opinion at the capitol on Monday, May 17 at 11 am. Come and help us celebrate.