Sep 12, 2018 by

9.12.18 – Austin American-Statesman

[COMMENTS FROM DONNA GARNER:  Even I can figure out that it is far wiser to have those closest to the classroom (15 elected members of the Texas State Board of Education) who are handling the adoption and costs of textbooks/instructional materials/other education expenses to make decisions over the Permanent School Fund (PSF).  In fact, that is why the writers of the Texas Constitution gave the fiduciary responsibility over the PSF to the 15 elected members of the SBOE, knowing that they would know when, if, and how much PSF money is needed for expenditures.

The Texas Land Commissioner and the School Land Board should stick to their important job of generating money for education through land, oil, and gas. 

Texas does not need “too many cooks in the kitchen,” particularly “cooks” who might be trying to build a political empire by doling out the money to those who might then support his political campaign.]


“Republican education board officials at odds with George P. Bush”

By Julie Chang – American-Statesman Staff

Excerpts from this article:

Some Republican members of the State Board of Education say Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a fellow Republican who is running for re-election, is taking undue credit in funding Texas public schools.

Tensions have been fueled by a recent decision by the School Land Board, which is housed under the General Land Office and made up of Bush and two others appointed by the governor, to not contribute any money for the first time ever to the Permanent School Fund. Instead, the land board in the 2020-21 budget cycle has decided to contribute $600 million, the maximum allowed by law, into the Available School Fund and invest another $55 million.

The State Board of Education, which will discuss the land board’s action formally on Wednesday, uses the Permanent School Fund for investments, to back construction bonds so that school districts and charter schools can earn lower interest rates, and to dispense money into the Available School Fund. Money from the Available School Fund goes to pay for textbooks, instructional materials and other education expenses.

By bypassing the State Board of Education and the Permanent School Fund, the School Land Board harms the possibility of future returns on investments and puts at risk the fund’s ability to back school bonds while inflating Bush’s role in school funding, said education board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

“It all has to do with November,” said Bradley, who is longest-serving and arguably most conservative member of the board; Bradley will be leaving the board in January. “This board since the commissioner took office four years ago has extended numerous invitations as with prior commissioners to work jointly on the Permanent School Fund and all of our invitations have been ignored.”

Officials with the General Land Office said putting money into the Available School Fund is a more direct way of funding education than waiting on returns on investment.

“Today, education dollars are needed in our classrooms more than ever. Texas public school funding will be a hotly debated issue in the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature. The SLB’s decision sent much needed money directly to classrooms across Texas and will be put to use immediately, providing textbooks and supplies for our students. Commissioner Bush believes this direct source of funding is in the best interest for our kids,” said land office spokeswoman Karina Erickson in a statement.

Managing more than 13 million acres of land, the School Land Board generates money for education through the sale and lease of land; oil and gas revenues; and grazing, agricultural, commercial and right-of-way uses. In addition to transferring the money into the permanent and available school funds, the land office can also invest the money to generate additional money for education.

Education board member Tom Maynard, R-Florence, believes the School Land Board’s investment efforts are redundant and said that such duties should be relegated to the State Board of Education as dictated in the Texas Constitution.

“As it was originally envisioned, the School Land Board/General Land Office would oversee the leases and they would collect the royalties for the purpose of then handing that money off to the Permanent School Fund. The only constitutional duty that the State Board of Education actually has is the management of the Permanent School Fund,” Maynard said. “The whole reason that we created the School Land Board … is to support the Permanent School Fund and not for the land commissioner to do his political empire building.”

In February, Maynard and Bradley penned an open letter to Bush saying he had overstated his contributions to public education in campaign ads; Bush suggested in a mailer that he had contributed more than $4 billion to education. The school board members said the credit should have gone to the State Board of Education, which will have contributed that much to the Available School Fund between 2016 and 2019.

Erickson defends the agency’s role in school funding by pointing to its 13.8 percent return over a five-year period. The State Board of Education’s was 8.3 percent.

But Bradley said the land board’s figures are inflated and if the agency’s cash assets were factored in, the land board’s rate of return is actually closer to 7.8 percent. Thirty nine percent of the school land board’s $8.7 billion in assets is in cash, equivalent to more than $4 billion, according to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Less than one percent of the State Board of Education’s $32.7 billion in assets is in cash.

“If they were operating as a Fortune 500 company, their shareholders would have sued them a long time ago” for sitting on so much cash, Bradley said…

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