by Donna Garner
Now that the 82nd Texas Legislative Session is over, I need to summarize the outrageous decisions made by our elected officials that are likely to hamper the hard work of the conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education for the next ten years and may, thus, harm the 4.7 million students in our Texas public schools.
I believe one of the worst failures of this session was that our Texas Legislators allowed themselves to be influenced by Thomas Ratliff who is under investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Since January 2011, Thomas has been a Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) member even though he is in clear violation of the Texas Education Code because he is a lobbyist for education-related clients such as Microsoft and two other institutional private equity money management firms that do business with the SBOE upon which he sits.
On June 14, 2011, Thomas Ratliff, who has made tens of thousands of dollars from his education lobbying clients, had the gall to write a commentary for the Houston Chronicle. His intent was to belittle those grassroots citizens and elected officials who did not want to drain the Rainy Day Fund but who want the public schools to live within their means.
Thomas does not seem to understand that his rhetoric rings hollow with the public now that they know of his vested interests: Everyone understands that the more money schools get from the legislature, the more money Thomas will make from his education-related clients.
Still trying to live a lie, Thomas said in his Houston Chronicle commentary, “I have no clients in the education industry. I have no financial interest in public education, period.”
Whom is Thomas trying to fool?
Anyone can go to the Texas Ethics Commission website and see his lobbying clients for the last ten years, including the 2011 Lobby List dated June 30, 2011. He clearly does business and has long-standing relationships with a number of education-related clients such as Microsoft, AIG, and T-Mobile. All of these entities stand to make money from the education trough from which Ratliff has fed for many years. Here are a few of his clients: Texas Ethics Commission Lobby List with Clients – June 30, 2011
Ratliff, Robert Thomas (00031723) 500 West 13th Street Austin, TX 78701 American International Group 2929 Allen Parkway Suite L4-02 Houston, TX 77019 Type of Compensation: Prospective $10,000 - $24,999.99 Client Start Date: 01/11/2011 Client Term Date: 12/31/2011 Microsoft Corporation One Microsoft Way Redmond, WA 98052 Type of Compensation: Prospective $50,000 - $99,999.99 Client Start Date: 01/11/2011 Client Term Date: 12/31/2011 T-Mobile USA 12920 SE 38th Street Bellevue, WA 98006 Type of Compensation: Prospective $25,000 - $49,999.99 Client Start Date: 01/11/2011 Client Term Date: 12/31/2011
Thomas’ has powerful family members and associates. Talk about irony — his father is Bill Ratliff who wrote SB 1 in 1995 that included the Texas Education Code language making it illegal for a lobbyist to serve on the SBOE!
Other associates of the Ratliff family are Charles Butt of HEB and Mike Moses, who has made a fortune living off education dollars. To learn more about Thomas Ratliff and his education-related associates, including Bill Gates, please go to the April 21, 2011 article by Peyton Wolcott: FATHER KNOWS BEST?
Because Thomas camps on legislators’ desks during the session, he was able to use his power and wealth to get Sen. Seliger to draft an SBOE redistricting map that decimates conservative SBOE members’ districts for the next ten years yet sets Thomas up in a picture-perfect district.
The miserable SBOE redistricting map could set the Board back for at least the next ten years. It has been the conservatives on the SBOE who have led the effort to implement authentic education reform in our public schools by rewriting the standards documents upon which all classroom instruction and testing are built.
The Texas Attorney General is supposed to conclude his investigation of Thomas Ratliff by the end of August or first of September; and with all of the incriminating evidence posted publicly for all to see, the AG is bound to conclude that Ratliff is in direct violation of the TEC and must be removed from the SBOE.
To read more details, please go to the following article: “Thomas Ratliff’s Brazen Gall” by Donna Garner 4.3.11