As debate over “school choice” rages in the Texas Legislature, parents are asking Gov. Greg Abbott to expand his agenda for the ongoing fourth special legislative session to include more oversight and accountability in public education.
“We need an inspector general for education now,” said Aileen Blachowski, a Prosper parent and public education advocate.
“School choice” is not parent empowerment. What is? Enforcing parental rights and legitimately protecting the majority of Texas kids who will remain in public schools even if “choice” is passed.
“One more victim and one more day is not acceptable,” Blachowski said during an online discussion with other advocates. “Protecting children is a mandate.”
Blachowski is part of Texas Education 911, a grassroots movement promoting parent-identified policy solutions to parent-identified problems within the state’s troubled government school system.
This alliance of individuals and organizations formed ahead of the 88th Legislative Session to advocate for parental rights, transparency, and accountability in government education.
TexEd911’s main focus now is on creating an inspector general’s office to provide independent oversight of the state’s public education system.
Texas Needs an Inspector General for Education
Blachowski said parents try to resolve their problems through their local school board or superintendent, but “there is a systemic issue of malaise and dysfunction in Texas public schools and no one gets their problems solved.”
“So we have tried to work at the legislative level and we’ve tried to work at the local level, and we find that the local level is so broken we need legislative air cover,” she said.
“With more than 50 percent of the state budget spent on public education, Texas needs an Inspector General for Education to report fraud, waste and abuse—especially abuses of parental rights and school employees who physically or sexually harm a child,” said Blachowski.
TexEd 911 has exposed dozens of examples of such abuses.
Over the summer, their Champion-A-Child campaign documented 32 stories of students across the state harmed by public school administrators failing to follow the law.
One of the most notorious abuse cases happened in Prosper Independent School District where Blachowski lives. Two elementary school girls were sexually molested by their bus driver for months, and when district officials finally found out, they failed to notify parents whose children rode the driver’s bus.
Blachowski can find no record that Superintendent Holly Ferguson ever reported the bus driver to the Texas Education Agency as required by law, and no one within the district has ever been held accountable for the abuse or the coverup, which the public learned about in August 2022.
In another example, officials in Tioga ISD failed to fire a teacher accused of grooming a student, even after parents showed the superintendent evidence of inappropriate contact between the adult male and his female student. The girl’s family says the superintendent and teacher are longtime friends.
No One’s Paying Attention
Blachowski said a number of administrators and teachers throughout the state have known about sexual offenses within their districts but failed to report them as required.
Under Texas law, superintendents are liable for a state jail felony if they fail to report credible allegations that a school employee has committed a sex offense with a student in a timely manner. The state could also revoke the superintendents’ certifications, costing the administrators their high-paying jobs.
Yet those penalties are rarely applied. After Prosper ISD’s sex abuse scandal and coverup became public knowledge, the school board voted unanimously to extend Ferguson’s contract and gave her a $40,000 raise, increasing her salary to $390,000 plus a $40,000 bonus.
“No one’s paying attention,” said Blachowski. “Our kids are literally a captive audience, exceptionally vulnerable, and the pedos know where to find them and where they will not be held accountable. And today that is in Texas public schools. That has got to stop.”
We need an inspector general for education. We need to stop the pedophiles from having direct access to our kids. We need superintendents and teachers to be held accountable to the state education laws of the state. We have no accountability, no oversight, no enforcement, and that’s why these problems continue.
“That’s why we need an inspector general, because no one will hold these superintendents accountable to what is actually written in the law,” she added.
A Crisis of Political Will
Blachowski said she believes state lawmakers will support parents’ proposed oversight legislation.
“What we don’t have is the political will of the governor’s office,” she said, adding that Texans need to make it popular for Abbott to “do what he needs to do here.”
Give us an inspector general for education. Take these matters out of the hands of these school superintendents who are completely tied into this and complicit, and take it to an oversight organization that can hold them accountable for the law.
“Do not let this session go to waste without protecting kids,” she said. “This is not a future plan. It’s not a wish list. Protecting children is a mandate. And we must do it today, because this is happening now on taxpayer dollars.”
“We can put a stop to it,” she added. “We just need to have the public demonstrate the will to contact the governor’s office, and then he will find the political will to do what is popular.”
Texas Education 911 is urging Texans to contact Gov. Abbott and demand an inspector general to provide independent oversight, enforcement, and accountability in publicly-funded education.
The fourth special legislative session expires on December 9.