This Thursday at 7PM, the Lumberton School Board will reveal that the School Administration had been hiding, and spent, several million dollars last year without the knowledge of the School Board. To put this into perspective, the LISD Budget was only about 30 million last year. Several million on top of that is a huge chunk of change. The Administration has acted as though practices such as these are no big deal because this is how it has been done for many years. This is east Texas after all where old Democrat politicians have controlled the political landscape and have been doing what they want behind the scenes. In this instance, the LISD Administration has been applying for federal grants and taking and spending the money without informing the School Board of the grant money or having the School Board vote to spend the grant money. I am not saying they stole the money or used it for non-educational expenses. I do not know what they spent it on and I would hope it was all on educational expenses. But ergardless of how they spent the money, the fact is that they have been secretly getting and spending millions of dollars without telling or getting approval from the School Board members who were elected by the people to oversee everything. That is a scandal. It is not that much of a surprise though because this is long time Democrat controlled east Texas politics at work and because the LISD Administration was also found recently to be lying to the auditor about debts LISD owed. The LISD Attorney had been receiving IOU’s from the Administration for some time. When the School Attorney needed the money he finally came out and asked for payment and that is when the School Board discovered the debts owed because the Administration had been lying to the Board, and the Auditors, about debts owed. This Thursday the School Board will reveal the Administration’s cover-up. (unless of course they decide to push back the issue to a later board meeting in hopes that things will quiet down). Lumberton ISD Superintendent Dr. Sims needs to come out and clarify what is going on here.
What is the point of all this? The point is that this situation in Lumberton is not unique. The fact is that the entire educational system is becoming corrupt. Money is being raised and spent all over the state with little or no accountability. Education costs are 40% of the budget in Texas while the average education costs of the other States is only about 30%. Financial reform is needed in order to save money from being wasted and to make education better by focusing money on education and not so many side projects.
For example, just down the road from Lumberton is a city called Beaumont, TX. This place is a cesspool of waste. The city is just over 100,000 people and the superintendent of this medium sized city is very likely the highest paid public official in Texas. He receives a 360,000 base salary per year (plus extras) to run the School District. The waste does not end with his salary. The BISD passed a few hundred million dollar bond recently and the bond was voted on to pay for a long list of things, but then BISD tried to use the money to pay for something completely different. For instance, they tried to tear down an historic school using the bond money even though they had sold voters the bond on the premise that the school would not be torn down. A judge granted an injunction on using bond money to tear down the structurally sound historic school. Even worse, BISD is looking into building a hotel and convention center right by the new Educational Support Center (Football Stadium). The School District wants to use extra bond money and other taxpayer education funds to build a hotel and compete with private businesses? Something is wrong here. The people are being swindled, taxes are getting raised, and education is suffering.
Statewide, school administrators are currently attacking our Governor, Rick Perry, because he refused federal money for education due to the strings attached. Governor Perry did the right thing. Instead of blaming the Governor’s defending of our state’s educational sovereignty , the best use of our time is in cracking down on the waste in Texas Schools that is sucking up so much of the money we already have here in the State.
Local school districts should have freedom to determine their own education locally by an elected school board. I am in no way advocating for the state to make specific financial or educational decisions regarding local education. In fact, some of the reason that schools have money problems is also due to unfunded legislative mandates. So I am not advocating for the State to take educational decisions out of local control. What I am advocating for is reform that requires schools districts to spend their taxpayer money on EDUCATION and not so much on non-educational waste. Also, the local communities need to be protected from local political machines that hide the finances from the people and that deceive the people with tax increases from shady bonds elections.
Here are some ideas:
1) 1) When the people of a School District vote to raise taxes for a bond, that bond money needs to be spent on exactly what the people voted on and if there are major changes in how the funds are to be spent then there needs to be a new vote. Leftover bond money should be used to pay down the bond debt and not spent just because you have it extra.
2) 2) School Administrators should not so easily be able to get grants for the school without the knowledge of the school board members who are elected to control the budget.
3) 3) School Districts, especially in this tight economical setting, should spend money on education and not so much on completely off the wall, non-educational things like building a hotel. School Districts should especially not be able to create a non-educational business that competes with hard working private businesses.
I am not sure how much of this can be done on a legislative level, but certainly the people should know about this so, at the very least, they can take action themselves through voting. Beaumont is starting to. see a change already. The people of Beaumont have woken up and recently they did a petition to change the way the school board is elected so they can crack down on this taxpayer fraud. It is interesting to know that the wake up of the people and the crackdown on the government waste coincides with these old democrat counties turning republican and bringing in new conservative leadership. Jefferson County, Beaumont, TX, recently elected their first county wide Republicans in nearly 150 years right at the same time that the people are waking up to the BISD taxpayer waste. Hardin County, Lumberton, TX, just had many new Conservative Republicans elected to county offices and also to the School Board, and many of the old Democrats are switching over to the Republican Side. This switch happened right at the same time that Lumberton voters started waking up to educational waste and they just rejected an unnecessary 30 million School Bond. Like Beaumont, Hardin County is also starting to wake up to the waste in their good old boy, decades long Democrat controlled county. So as People wake up to the fraud and waste of the Government, these very same people start voting Republicans into office to clean up the mess that the old democrats left….. interesting how that goes hand in hand