AUSTIN, TEXAS–Groups affiliated with the administrators of Texas’ public education bureaucracy took a hit in the Tuesday Republican primary, losing most of the competitive races in which they endorsed. Advocates for education reform say the election results should be a wake-up call for lawmakers.
Texas Parent PAC, whose prime benefactor is grocery store heir Charles Butt, works to oppose public school choice. Texas’ chapter of the American Federation of Texas is the AFL-CIO affiliate in the state.
Parent PAC made 19 endorsements in races, where they lost nine, won six, and in three have their candidates in run-offs. AFT made six endorsements, all incumbents, in which they lost half.
Neither Parent PAC nor Texas AFT would respond to questions about their election night results.
The Parent PAC website proclaims “Candidates Endorsed by Texas Parent PAC Win Big on March 4!”
They lost several of their biggest advocates on Tuesday night. For example, both groups strongly supported State Rep. Bennett Ratliff of Coppell, a former school board member who made support of the education bureaucracy, and opposition to parent choice options, the hallmark of his one term in the legislature. Ratliff’ brother, Thomas, is an elected member of the state board of education.
In his failed re-election bid, Bennett Ratliff collected $180,000 from Parent PAC and Butt according to a review of state data by Daniel Greer of the news analysis website AgendaWise.
“There is no doubt that Parent PAC had a rough primary,” said Greer. “They went in heavy and lost big. Legislators are getting the message that these guys are politically toxic.”
Greer told Breitbart Texas that the already-bad ratio for Parent PAC’s win-loss record is made worse when looking at who they “endorsed early” compared to the “late, sure-to-win endorsements at the end of the primary season to pad their stats.”
Long considered a powerful force in Texas politics, public schools are often the largest employer in a city. One education advocate says the losses might indicate the start of a new political trend as parents look for greater control of their children’s academic future.
“It seems Texans are starting to see that Texas Parent PAC exists to preserve a district monopoly, not empower parents,” said Matt Prewett, who founded Texas Parents Union, a non-profit group advocating for more parental options in education.
The highest profile loss for the public education establishment was State Rep. Diane Patrick of Arlington, one of liberal-leaning House Speaker Joe Straus’ education advisors. First elected on a platform opposing options in public education, Patrick’s legislative agenda mirrored that of the education bureaucracy. Despite the incumbent’s heavy spending, she was defeated by Army war hero Tony Tinderholt in a heavily lopsided race.
Former State Rep. Kent Grusendorf, an education reformer who chaired the House Public Education Committee, said the “the tide has changed” in Texas.
“The endorsement of Parent PAC is now a liability,” he said.
Not only did they lose incumbents, Parent PAC lost when attacking conservative reforms. The group went big against conservative incumbents Charles Perry of Lubbock, Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and Matt Schaefer of Tyler.
Indeed, Stickland’s opponent — local school board member Andy Cargile — ran strongly on Parent PAC’s issues only to lose 65-35.
Follow Michael Quinn Sullivan on Twitter @MQSullivan