As more and more Texans join the backlash against the National School Boards Association for comparing parents fighting harmful school district policies to “domestic terrorism,” they’re reminded that their lawmakers failed to defund the NSBA’s Texas affiliate—despite repeated calls from constituents to stop sending tax dollars to lobbyists.

The Texas Association of School Boards is a statewide tax-funded lobbying group for school officials. All 1,024 Texas school boards are TASB members. Dues are paid with tax dollars, and TASB sends some of those dollars to the NSBA.

“We have been calling for withdrawal from TASB, as well as other similar organizations, for years!” said Fran Rhodes, president of conservative activist group True Texas Project. “It’s part of the taxpayer-funded lobbyist problem that plagues every aspect of our local governments.”

Nearly 90 percent of all Texans—Republican and Democrat—oppose taxpayer-funded lobbying of any kind. In 2020, 94 percent of Republican primary voters said Texas should ban the practice of allowing tax dollars to be spent on lobbyists who work against taxpayers.

In 2019 and again in 2021, ending taxpayer-funded lobbying was a legislative priority for the Texas GOP.

Yet the Republican-controlled Legislature has failed to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying, bowing to pressure from the very lobbyists Texans wanted defunded, including representatives of TASB.

TASB’s legislative goals explicitly revolve around maintaining their members’ authority and revenue.

How much revenue? Millions.

In 2013, a group of citizen advocates estimated that school districts across the state were sending TASB and TASA (a similar group for school administrators) more than $100 million a year of tax revenue allocated for education—enough to fund 2,300 teachers.

Texans Ready to Ditch School Board Lobby

In October, the Texas Freedom Caucus—a group of Republican Texas House members—asked TASB to end its affiliation with the national organization. When that failed, they followed in November with an open letter urging local Texas school districts to leave TASB:

We encourage parents to go to their local school board meetings, make their voice heard, and demand their local ISDs leave the Texas Association of School Boards.

Last week, Texas GOP officials adopted a resolution also encouraging TASB to terminate its affiliation with NSBA and calling on local school districts across the state to “sever ties with TASB in order to protect Texas children and the voices of parents.”

“The Republican Party of Texas opposes tax dollars being sent by local ISDs to TASB and NSBA, which both have promoted Critical Race Theory and have opposed Parental Rights,” members of the State Republican Executive Committee added.

Members of Texas’ congressional delegation are also joining calls for local school districts to ditch the state and national lobby groups.

Nine Republican representatives sent a letter to TASB last month, urging the Texas group to withdraw from NSBA.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX21) sent a second letter, saying he was “disappointed” and “confused as to why TASB continues to remain a part of an organization that puts political agendas ahead of the best interests of parents and their children.”

“Texas parents should not be represented by organizations that cannot affirmatively stand with parents and their rightful place on the frontlines of their children’s education,” Roy added, calling on TASB to “immediately separate” from NSBA.

The problem is that TASB does not represent parents, nor the taxpayers who fund their activities.

According to its own website, TASB “represents school district interests,” which often directly conflict with the interests of constituents and students.

For example, the association is against measures to improve transparency and voter participation in elections held to increase school districts’ tax rates or debt, and it advocates for promoting “equity” and eradicating “systemic racism”—terminology based in critical race theory that echoes NSBA’s “public school transformation” plan.

TASB is also a vendor that sells products and services to school districts, giving them a vested interest in lobbying for higher school taxes and more education spending.

A major product the association sells is training events for school officials. Over the past decade, presentations at these events have belittled citizens who voice their concerns, referring to them as “cyber terrorists,” “malcontents,” and “CAVE people” (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).

The group’s tax-funded lobbying against the interests of Texas parents and taxpayers created dissatisfaction with TASB long before the NSBA’s September letter to the Biden administration (which they later disavowed), in which the association asked federal authorities to investigate people “inciting chaos” at school board meetings.

That request was co-signed by NSBA President Viola Garcia, a 29-year Texas educrat who formerly headed TASB.

At least 18 states have since broken with NSBA following citizens’ backlash against the actions and policies of the lobby group and its leaders.

So far, Texas is not one of those states, and no local school districts have yet severed ties with TASB.

Until state lawmakers act to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying, the money will continue to flow.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.