Breaking News – Here is the bad news, but keep reading. Good news follows:
By Donna Garner
SB 1 Conference Report passed the House 80-57 on the second time around. Unfortunately, the three safeguards against the Gulen Turkish charter schools did not make it into the bill. These were:
1. Proof of US citizenship for all charter school operator board members and top 5 highest paid administrators. (public ISD trustees must be US citizens)
2. Names, titles, and biographies posted online for all charter operator board members and top 5 highest paid administrators. (KIPP Charter Schools already does)
3. Check registers posted online. (Over 70 % of local ISD dollars are online.)
In all fairness to the House members, they could not have amended the SR 1 Conference Report today. Once a CR is printed, it cannot be amended.
The House members also could not have sent SB 1 back to the Conference Committee because the Senate decided to sine die this afternoon. In other words, the Senators have left Austin; and the Special Session for them is over. The House is to meet tomorrow at 10:00 A. M.
THE GOOD NEWS
This is what happened today: The House first voted against the SB 1 Conference Report 64 to 79. At that point Rep. Larry Taylor called the House members into a Republican Caucus, and Gov. Perry’s Chief of Staff and Legislative Director listened to the concerns of the House members. Among them were the three safeguards against the Gulen Turkish charter schools that were not included in the CR.
The Republican leadership, including Speaker Joe Straus, announced that a General Investigating and Ethics Committee with subpoena powers would be set up to do a full investigation of the Gulen Turkish charter schools (e.g., Cosmos Foundation, Harmony Schools, etc.).
Satisfied with this concession to their concerns, the House members then went back into session; and the SB 1 Conference Report was passed 80 to 57. It now goes to Gov. Perry’s desk for his signature.
Even though the three safeguards did not make it into the bill; the Texas House has gone on record publicly to announce the investigation of the Gulen Turkish charter schools, and the archives will reflect this. The media will undoubtedly pick this up, and the whole country will know that Texas is leading the effort to investigate the Gulen Turkish charter schools.
As Rep. Wayne Christian said in his newsletter released after the second vote, “And I’d like to thank MerryLynn Gerstenschlager, Peyton Wolcott and all of the Texas Eagle Forum for diligently pursuing the issues surrounding our charter schools and the Permanent School Fund. Their information and activism couldn’t be appreciated more by members like myself.”
This is an example of what hard-working, committed grassroots citizens can do to affect change in the Legislature. It is a pleasure to report that a victory of sorts was achieved today, and we need to thank all of the House members who listened to our concerns and acted upon them.