Lobbyist from Anti-School Choice TASB Joins Abbott’s Team

School Choice Sign
AP Photo

Breitbart Texas has learned that Julie Shields, Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Assistant Director of Governmental Relations is joining the Abbott team. TASB represents and lobbies for the interests of Texas public schools. Shields spoke to Breitbart Texas late Sunday, December 21 and confirmed that she accepted a position “sometime last week” but could not comment further about any details on the position or even what the position is at this time.

Governor-elect Abbott’s team spoke with Breitbart Texas on the matter. Amelia Chasse, Abbott’s press secretary, reaffirmed Abbott’s commitment to school choice and stated, “All policy staff appointed by Governor-elect Abbott will solely and exclusively focus on advancing Greg Abbott’s policy agenda, including his education plan.”

Last week, the rumor of Shields joining the Abbott team stirred up conservative leaders and they contacted Breitbart Texas with their concerns about a lobbyist for TASB joining the Abbott team. School choice is a big deal to grassroots Texans. They supported the Governor-elect’s campaign on many issues including his pro-school choice and local control stances.

Insiders shared with Breitbart Texas that their concerns were largely based on how Shields, who has lobbied legislators on behalf of TASB to oppose charter schools and school choice, would successfully transition to advocating on behalf of Abbott’s pro-choice education campaign policies.

Breitbart Texas has consistently reported on Abbott’s sensible and foundational Educating Texans approach. During the gubernatorial race, Abbott stood firmly on the side of the grassroots and school choice freedom. He rejected Wendy Davis’ government-run Castro-style Pre-K 4 SA and Obama’s Pre-K for All.

Last week, when it was just a rumor, Michael Hasson, Texas Director of Americans for Prosperity, told Breitbart Texas, ““We hope that both this rumor and its policy implications prove untrue and we look forward to working with the Governor-elect and lawmakers on passing educational reform legislation that is consistent with Texas’ reputation as a champion of opportunity and innovation.”

Breitbart Texas reported that school choice advocates hope to see more “choice” legislation passed during the upcoming 84th legislative session, although House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) “has not shared his colleagues’ enthusiasm for school choice programs.”

“School choice provides flexibility that students deserve because they may not be at fault for going to a failing school,” Alejandro Garcia, spokesman for incoming Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told Breitbart Texas. As state senator, Patrick has been a staunch champion of school choice.

Breitbart Texas spoke with Senior Fellow & Director, Center for Education Freedom at Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Honorable Kent Grusendorf, when this was just a rumor. He cautioned that regardless of such an appointment, “Greg Abbott has indicated his support for market oriented education reform.”

In November, Grusendorf wrote about the importance of school choice, citing the report “Rebuilding America’s Middle Class — Prosperity Requires Capitalism in the Classroom.” He noted that “most polling indicates strong support for school choice” although “most of the opposition comes from public school bureaucrats and unions.”

Grusendorf highlighted that “with school choice, students will be better served; good teachers, better paid; bad teachers, fired; schools, free to innovate; and the middle class restored.”

Grusendorf also shared an important reminder for all conservatives, emphasizing that Shields would only be a staff member. In the end, it would be Governor Abbott who drives the education narrative.

“A staffer is a staffer, an elected official makes the call, ” he said.

Breitbart Texas will continue to follow up on this appointment with Abbott office and report once more information becomes available.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.