School & District Management

Political Activism

By Linda Jacobson — March 21, 2006 1 min read

Candidates running for the Texas legislature as champions of public schools scored a handful of victories in this month’s primary elections, but their biggest accomplishment was ousting a powerful Republican committee leader.

In the GOP primary, Diane Patrick, an education professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, defeated Rep. Kent Grusendorf, the chairman of the House public education committee, with 60 percent of the vote.

“Since Kent Grusendorf was the [House Speaker Tom Craddick’s] point man on education funding and reform, his decisive defeat by a challenger backed by the education community shakes up the Austin scene as we head into another special session or sessions on education funding,” Richard Murray, the director of the Center for Public Policy at the University of Houston, said in an e-mail last week.

More than two dozen candidates from the education field—including teachers, administrators, and school board members—ran in the March 7 Republican and Democratic primaries, spurred in part by their dissatisfaction with the way the current leaders have handled the state’s school finance crisis. (“Texas Educators Take Up Call to Run for Legislature,” Feb. 22, 2006.)

Legislators over the past three years have been unable to agree on a new finance system, which was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by the Texas Supreme Court in December. A special session is slated for April.

Carolyn Boyle, the chairwoman of Texas Parent, a political action committee that recruited candidates for the primaries, said she’s pleased with the outcome so far.

“People with organized people can beat people with organized money,” she said. “The news media is talking about us as a player.”

While school finance was the main issue drawing many educators into the political arena, others said they were tired of what they perceived as an anti-public-school agenda and support for school vouchers among conservatives such as Mr. Grusendorf and Speaker Craddick.

Several other candidates from education who answered the call of Texas Parent are facing runoffs on April 11.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2006 edition of Education Week

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