Whether Texas schools end up with $4 billion or $10 billion less in state funding by the end of the 82nd legislative session, lawmakers face historic choices in deciding what course public education will take.
Tribune readers, wondering what was personally at stake for the state’s education policy makers, asked us to check where lawmakers send their children to school. We obliged, and posed that question to all 181 members of the Legislature and 15 members of the State Board of Education.
The results? Overwhelmingly, about 75 percent of their children attend, or have attended, public schools.
A handful of elected officials — 10 in the House, two in the Senate, and two on the SBOE — declined to participate in our survey, usually because they said they considered the question too invasive. SBOE member Terri Leo, R-Spring, said, through the board’s representative that she didn’t want to answer the question because it was “very personal.” Leo is a former teacher who serves as a case manager for special needs students in the public school system.
A few other standout facts from our analysis of the 182 elected officials who responded to the poll:
- 14 percent either did not have children old enough to attend school or did not have them at all.
- At 35 percent compared to Republicans’ 7 percent, Democrats were more likely to either have kids too young for school or no kids at all.
- Democrats and Republicans, at roughly 6 and 7 percent respectively, have about the same amount of children in private schools.
On the state education board, members offered differing perspectives as to whether having children in the public school system affected their decision-making process. David Bradley, R-Beaumont, who had one child graduate from public school and home-schooled another, said he was always “annoyed with the suggestion” that having children in public schools had anything to do with qualifications to serve in the Legislature or on the state board:
“I always kind of wondered, how can you serve on the Texas mental health commission unless you are retarded or on the Texas Funeral Commission unless you are dead? Or in the Legislature, if you are sitting on the criminal committee, are you a criminal?" he said, adding that if “you are a citizen, you are a taxpayer, you take an interest."
Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, was elected to the board in November. He said his experience as a parent in the public school system was the “primary reason” he decided to run. “I would not have jumped into the fray otherwise. It informs my perspective, daily,” he said.
[Editor's Note: This article orginally miscalculated the percentage of Democrats that have children in private schools.]