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October 2022

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

74% of Texas Public School campuses achieved an A or B rating, despite COVID-19 challenges.

In the first rankings to be issued since 2019 due to two years of COVID-related pauses, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the 2022 A–F accountability ratings for districts and campuses. Adjusted to exclude charter schools, the data shows that 74% of Texas Public School campuses received an A or B rating, a dramatic improvement from 60.6% in 2019.

“These results show our state’s significant investment in the post-pandemic academic recovery of Texas public school students is bearing fruit,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “I’m grateful for the driving force behind this year’s success: our teachers and local school leaders.”

View the rest of this month's newsletter here.


A note from Scott Milder, Founder, Friends of Texas Public Schools

This is outrageous, but not surprising. Public funds should not be gifted to private entities. In fact, the Texas Constitution prohibits it (Art.3, Sect.52). Greed and corruption schemes such as the one featured in this Texas Monthly article always follow. On the upside, Forrest Wilder's (not to be confused with Milder) work is a refreshingly excellent example of quality investigative journalism as it's meant to be.


Forrest Wilder, Texas Monthly

The proposal landed on Greg Bonewald’s desk like a pipe bomb. Bonewald, a soft-spoken career educator, had served as a teacher, coach, and principal in the fast-growing Hill Country town of Wimberley for fifteen years. In 2014, he took a bigger job as an assistant superintendent in Victoria, about two hours to the southeast. But he maintained an affection for Wimberley, and when its school board sought to bring him back as superintendent this year, he was thrilled. His honeymoon would be short.

In a document obtained by Texas Monthly, stamped “Confidential” and dated May 3—the day after Bonewald was named the sole finalist for the job—a Republican political operative and a politically connected charter-school executive laid out an explosive proposal for “Wimberly [sic] ISD.” (Out-of-towners frequently misspell “Wimberley,” much to the annoyance of locals.) Apparently, the plan had been in the works for months and had been vetted by the outgoing superintendent. But Bonewald said no one had bothered to mention it to him.

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.

Their confidential proposal went like this: Wimberley would partner with Harris and Bennett’s Texans for Education Rights Institute to create a charter school tentatively dubbed the Texas Achievement Campus. But “campus” was a misnomer, because there would be none. The school would exist only on paper. Texans for Education Rights would then work with ResponsiveEd, Whitehurst’s group, to place K–12 students from around the state into private schools of their choice at “no cost to their families.”

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 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.

Its proponents have called the scheme pioneering and innovative. Though the effort ultimately failed in Wimberley, one of its backers says he is shopping the plan around to other districts. Critics have raised all manner of alarms. Read the rest of the story here at Texas Monthly.

View the rest of this month's newsletter here.

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