Announcing the Texan of the Year
by annatopia, Fri Dec 08, 2006 at 12:04:21 PM EST
<-- ParentPAC's Carolyn Boyle, courtesy of the Austin Chronicle
I'm cross-posting because I thought yall might be interested in learning about some of the power players in Texas. You're probably familiar with Swift Vet Liars for Bush funder Bob Perry. We seem to breed those types down here. The latest GOP sugar daddy is James Leininger of San Antonio. His pet project is pushing vouchers and destroying our public school system. But good things are happening here. Regular people are starting to fight back. The story of ParentPAC is a true grassroots success story, and I think it serves as a great example of what we can accomplish when they band together.
Now let's sing some praises, shall we? I was one of the people who nominated and voted for ParentPAC. I don't think that any one person or organisation had as much of an impact during this election cycle as these public school advocates.
Carolyn Boyle's journey started nearly 14 years ago as a PTA leader in the Austin ISD. In 1997, she joined the Coalition for Public Schools, where she was involved in lobbying the lege to fully fund our public schools. The CPS became well known for their staunch advocacy work, earning the respect of moderate Republicans and most Democrats. During the last regular session, CPS vociferously lobbied on behalf of Texas public schools:
AUSTIN - Opponents of tax-funded private school vouchers accused supporters Monday of leading an "assault" on Dallas and other urban school districts by pushing legislation that could take hundreds of millions of dollars from the state's largest school systems.
A coalition of 40 education, community and religious groups urged House members to reject three measures set to be considered today in the House Public Education Committee. The bills, opponents said, would make Texas one of the first states to spend massive amounts of tax money on private schools.
"These three voucher bills are a mean assault on our urban school districts," said Carolyn Boyle, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for Public Schools. She predicted that a pilot program in large urban districts - which one of the bills would create - would drain $645 million from Dallas public schools in two years, more than any other district except for Houston.
"Texans want the Legislature to provide more money for our neighborhood public schools, not less," she said.
CPS and a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans successfully defeated the voucher proposals. But that's when things began to get really ugly.
With CradDICK (thanks, McBlogger!) as speaker, voucher advocates such as James Leininger saw an opportunity to push their education-killing agenda in Texas. As you probably know, Sugar Daddy Jim has spent nearly $50 million dollars attempting to dismantle public education in Texas. Leininger funded several right-wing public education haters during the next election cycle and achieved some victories, including the defeat of last year's Texan of the Year, Carter Casteel of San Marcos.
(This is the face of evil, BTW -------------->)
But Carolyn Boyle and other activists who care about our public schools were fully aware of this new threat, and they'd already taken action. In 2005 they formed Texas ParentPAC. Their first press release stated their mission:
"There are no good excuses for failure by the Legislature to meet the needs of 4.4 million students enrolled in Texas public schools. Parents are fed up with the inability of state lawmakers to support Texas children in the manner they deserve and our constitution requires."
ParentPAC fired back at the voucher advocates, and tasted a very important victory back in March when Dianne Patrick defeated Kent Grusendorf in the Republican primary for the house seat in district 94. That's my district, and let me tell you, that was one ugly fight. We were getting mailbombed, robocalled, and canvassed... and we're Democrats! But the Patrick campaign put together a truly bipartisan group of volunteers and supporters. She crushed Grusendorf (who was the face of the voucher movement and the head of the house education committee), and I must admit that I was not-so-secretly cheering Dianne on.
In addition to Patrick, ParentPAC can claim credit in the following races:
H.D. 32: Juan Garcia, D-Corpus Christi (defeated Rep. Gene Seaman)
H.D. 47: Valinda Bolton, D-Austin (open seat)
H.D. 48: Representative Donna Howard, D-Austin, (special election victory against Ben Bentzin in Feb.)
H.D. 54: Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen (open seat)
H.D. 71: Susan King, R-Abilene (open seat)
H.D. 72: Drew Darby, R-San Angelo (defeated Rep. Scott Campbell in the primary)
H.D. 85: Joe Heflin, D-Crosbyton (open seat of former Speaker Pete Laney)
H.D. 94: Diane Patrick, R-Arlington (defeated Grusendorf in the primary)
H.D. 101: Thomas Latham, R-Sunnyvale (defeated Rep. Elvira Reyna in the primary)
H.D. 107: Allen Vaught, D-Dallas (defeated Rep. Bill Keffer, another House Public Education Committee member)
H.D. 118: Joe Farias, D-San Antonio (open seat)
H.D. 134: Ellen Cohen, D-Houston (defeated Rep. Martha Wong)
Perhaps what is most impressive is that ParentPAC managed to accomplish this in one election cycle. I think Vince from Capitol Annex put it best when he said:
"This election cycle, Carolyn Boyle and Texas Parent PAC showed that soccer moms and PTA dads speak as loud as the James Leiningers and Bob Perrys, and that the folks those guys have been helping get elected all these years aren't doing the job when it comes to public education."
Indeed. ParentPAC proved that people-powered movements can effect positive change here in Texas. Their effort originated not within the institutional power structure in our state, but with regular people like you and me. They aren't Bush Pioneers. They aren't compromised elected officials trying desperately to retain their power by kissing Sugar Daddy Jim's ring. Nope - they're people just like you and me, and they banded together to save our public schools.
Now, ParentPAC's work is far from done and it remains to be seen whether our new Reps will be able to beat back the public school killers. Also, Sugar Daddy Jim isn't going to just crawl back into the whole from whence he came. But at least we can rest assured that honest public school advocates like Carolyn Boyle will be fighting the good fight on behalf of Texas children.
Congratulations to Carolyn Boyle and ParentPAC!
update: The TPA just got a real sweet note from the ParentPAC board - check it out:
TO: Texas Progressive Alliance
FROM: Texas Parent PAC Board of Directors: Bev Barrow, Carolyn Boyle, Staley Gray, Ellen Jones, Pam Meyercord, Dinah Miller, Charles Olson, Manuel Rodriguez, Jr.
Heartfelt thanks to the Texas Progressive Alliance for honoring Texas Parent PAC and Chair Carolyn Boyle as 2006 "Texan of the Year." The PAC's volunteer leadership, 500 donors, and involved parents worked tirelessly during our first election cycle, and it means a lot to have these efforts recognized by such a prominent group of political bloggers.
The Parent PAC leadership is humble about the impact we had, because many other effective PACs and individuals worked to elect moderate, mainstream Republican and Democratic candidates in 2006. We were able to prove that parents are a sleeping giant that can be roused to make a real difference in close elections.
Over the past two days, we have been surprised by how MUCH email we have received about your award from all around the state. Your political blogs must have a huge number of readers!
We'd like to stay in touch with you all as Texas Parent PAC looks to 2008. If you want to be added to our news media distribution list, please send a note with your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for all you do to inform, persuade, and bring about change in Texas. Onward to a better legislative session!