Three seats on San Antonio’s North East ISD school board are on the May 7 ballot. The incumbent board members of districts 2, 3, and 7 are facing five challengers in total.

Three of the challenger candidates are supported by a grassroots parent organization that was formed organically over the past year. The parents call themselves Parents United for Freedom, and they registered as a general political action committee “after parents across the city realized their concerns were being ignored and their role as parents undermined by the board majority,” said a representative of the PAC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

As parents grew more aware of the problems at the board level, they recognized that coming together was the only way to bring about change. Besides advocating for parental rights in education, the overarching message of the parent group and its candidates is to stop the politicization of education and return to the basics so that our children are educated at the highest levels.

As this message gained traction among voters, the incumbents and liberal media all began to co-opt the parents’ messaging with regard to politicization, and the parents found themselves being accused of wanting to insert politics.

“It’s flattering that they found our messaging so attractive,” the PUFF representative says, “that they want to co-opt it. We know it’s a winning message because parents and teachers want a return to the basics. We are falling behind other countries because of all the time-consuming nonsense entering schools as pet projects and new fads.”

Without much reasoning given, the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board endorsed the incumbents and criticized the parent group.

The end of the endorsement does chide the incumbents a bit, stating, “Even among the candidates we are recommending we’d like to see more bold advocacy, better independence from staff, and a stronger oversight role.”

It’s humorous, since bold advocacy, thinking independently from senior staff, better governance, and board accountability and transparency are some of the very platforms on which our endorsed candidates Klein, Villarreal, and Landry have consistently run. What is the rational basis to think incumbents might suddenly be more accountable to taxpayers after securing new four-year terms? They have voted in favor of every single senior staff proposal throughout their tenures.

“We need independent thinkers in charge if we are going to tackle the challenges NEISD faces,” says the PUFF representative.

In multiple news and opinion articles, local journalists have made it a point to mention by name the largest donor to Parents United for Freedom PAC, San Antonio-based attorney and father Jason DeSouza, who has not spoken to the media until now.

DeSouza, who donated $10,000 to the Parents United for Freedom PAC, responded to a question about his interest in supporting PUFF, stating, “I support public education, but believe there is incredible room for improvement. We can’t do the same thing year after year and expect a different result.”

As a business owner, I have seen first-hand the decline in public education. Other business owners and managers express the same concerns: Many applicants for employment are simply not prepared for the workforce. Too often, they lack basic critical thinking skills. Too often, they lack the necessary aptitude in reading, writing, and math that most jobs require. This has a real economic impact.

DeSouza says, “My contribution to the Parents United for Freedom PAC was to support an organization which shares my views toward a focus on academic excellence. We must improve education for all students, by focusing on the basic mission and goals of public schools.”

“Parents and teachers are frustrated, and school officials are downplaying or ignoring their concerns. Parents and teachers have choices, and unless we fix public schools, they will go elsewhere. It’s time to try something new to turn things around,” DeSouza added.

“The position of Parents United for Freedom is that the status quo is not working. Our kids deserve a brighter, more joyful, rigorous education. For these reasons, their platforms, and their qualifications, we support Klein, Villarreal, and Landry,” says the PUFF representative.

The North East ISD trustee election is May 7, 2022.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.

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