Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

November 3, 2006

Money for nothing?

Young: School supporters get smart in playing the political game:

Two years ago, after beating heads against a wall of big campaign contributions, a group of PTA spouses, educators and others who support public schools decided to fight smart. The Parent PAC does what other PACs do. It seeks like-minded candidates and offers them resources and the weight of assembled interests.

The competition is stiff. James Leininger, the second-biggest political donor in Texas, has donated millions of dollars to candidates. Gov. Rick Perry tops the list. Leininger’s single-issue fixation: to siphon school dollars into vouchers to private and church schools.

Right out of the box this March in the primary, the Parent PAC had a huge smackdown with Leininger when he targeted incumbents like Republicans Tommy Merritt of Longview, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth and Delwin Jones of Lubbock. They’ve refused to play along with GOP leadership’s designs on school vouchers.

At the same time, the Parent PAC assisted in one of the biggest political upsets in recent years when Arlington educator Diane Patrick unseated state Rep. Kent Grusendorf, the GOP point man on all things educational.

The Parent PAC needs to start looking at races for the State Board of Education as well. Over half of the $67,796 Ken Mercer has raised this election cycle comes from the Leiningers. Cecilia Leininger has donated $10,000 of the $51,172 Cynthia Dunbar has raised for this election. This information is available from Follow The Money: The Institute on Money in State Politics. I can’t say for certain which district the Leininger’s live in but I’m fairly certain that it’s not both. So what kind of voice do you think the Leininger’s will have on the board if the candidates they support win?

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