The influence of pro-bond school vendors that profited from a North Texas school district’s taxpayer debt is more massive than was previously believed. In addition to influencing this year’s bond election, the same vendors are also shown to be currently influencing the district’s education foundation.

As previously reported by Texas Scorecard, several school district vendors have joined BTC—a construction company—in financing “Vote For Keller ISD,” a political action committee promoting a $315 million bond for the Keller Independent School District. These hundreds of millions would be added onto the $1 billion debt (principal plus interest) Keller ISD property taxpayers already owe, and if the new bond is passed, the total debt would grow to nearly $40,000 per student (according to 2017-2018 student enrollment numbers.)

Two of these companies—VLK Architects and BTC—made over $31 million combined off of the district’s last bond in 2014.

This year, VLK is once again trying to influence the election to cash in for the new bond, joining fellow pro-bond company North Texas Construction in buying classroom supplies for Keller ISD employees in an apparent attempt to sway the district’s employees toward supporting the bond.

On top of that, Texas Scorecard has now learned that VLK and BTC are among the financial backers of the Keller ISD Education Foundation, along with Steele & Freeman, Inc.

Steele & Freeman is a construction management company that made over $53 million from projects for the 2014 bond.

The foundation’s mission is “[t]o support, fund and promote educational excellence, innovation and creativity in Keller ISD,” and they do so through giving scholarships to students and grants to educators of the district. To date, they claim to have dispersed over $618,000 and given grants to 32 educators last year.

While it is admirable for private individuals and companies to rally together to support education, the pro-bond school vendors’ connection to the foundation is concerning. It gives the appearance of trying to influence teachers and student’s families to support bonds that would benefit the vendors. And while the vendors would likely score big cash contracts if the bond passed, the taxpayers and parents of the school district would be left with the tax bills necessary to pay off the debt from the bond.

According to the Tarrant Appraisal District, since 2013—a year before the district’s last bond—the average homeowner’s property tax bill from the school district rose 38 percent, from $2,932 to $4,045.

Keller ISD taxpayers concerned about this situation may contact their elected board members as well as vote in the bond election.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.