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Since the Harris County Department of Education hasn’t been in charge of managing public schools for over 90 years, it’s had to find another way to spend its taxpayer funds: investing in for-profit businesses. Apparently, venture capitalism is one of the many all-important duties a department of education is meant to tackle.

In October 2010, MGT of America, Inc., a public sector management and consulting firm, released its annual performance review of the department stating “HCDE is currently engaged in instructional programs and services as well as entrepreneurial initiatives.” That’s right, they’re using your tax-dollars to fund a venture-capital effort. The HCDE gets the reward — taxpayers saddle the risk.

 

One of these tax-funded initiatives is called Choice Facilities Partners (CFP), which provides “facility-related” services to government agencies free of charge, and only receives a percentage of the cost for other vendors. Not only do they take jobs away from the private sector by doing this, the profits are tax-exempt too.

But if this agenda-driven interference in the free-market isn’t enough to make your blood boil, consider this: In the first two years these “entrepreneurial initiatives” were implemented, HCDE lost $284,000 of taxpayer money. And it’s no wonder they did. Look at how poorly recipients of their services rate HCDE’s performance:

  • “HCDE lacks a comprehensive, long-range plan …”
  • “The curriculum and instruction at the Academic and Behavior Center are not adequately aligned with the Texas Department of Education general education curriculum content standards or alternative or modified assessments.”
  • “HCDE lacks a comprehensive system for annually reviewing job descriptions to ensure alignment of current job performance responsibilities with previous job performance responsibilities”
  • “HCDE does not have a formal process for the classification/reclassification of positions and the assignment of pay grades.”
  • “HR does not have a comprehensive process for conducting employee reference checks, which could result in important employment information being overlooked.”
  • “HR does not have a single, comprehensive salary schedule that reflects all salaries for the organization.”
  • “It was not clear who provided supervision or evaluation of staff in CFP, although they described themselves as a ‘well-working’ team.”
  • “HCDE does not have a comprehensive facilities master plan, although it owns and operates four special schools, owns 13 other facilities, and leases space in another 20 buildings.”

HCDE’s attempt to generate more revenue by indiscriminately risking taxpayer funds on for-profit businesses is at best inappropriate and at worst abusive of tax dollars. The fact that they do a lousy job doing it is just more salt on taxpayer wounds.

It’s time to shut the HCDE down.

Note: Information for this article was provided by Colleen Vera of TexasTrashTalk.com.