Charles Butt, the billionaire heir and CEO of the Texas grocery empire H-E-B, sponsored a recent “family friendly” drag show and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on anti-school choice campaigns.
In June, H-E-B sponsored an LGBT “pride” event in downtown Austin. The event, called Rainbow on the Creek, included a drag queen story hour, a “family-friendly all ages” drag show performed by a group called the Hydrated Queer Kitties, and a pride parade. A Libs of TikTok tweet showed the scantily clad performers dancing sensually in front of parents and their children.
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) June 12, 2022
The event’s website says, “The celebration will include 25+ [activities] by LGBTQIA+ nonprofits and partners, a Queer BIPOC and Latinx artisan & craft market, gender-affirming care & sexual health resources, and many more activities for the whole family.”
But this is not the only controversial cause Butt has supported.
One of Mr. Butt’s influential anti-school choice operations comes in the form of The Charles Butt Public Education Political Action Committee, which has made donations to 22 political campaigns that oppose school choice. The PAC has received $750,000 in contributions from Butt.
Of the 22 campaign donation recipients, 16 are Republican candidates, including Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, State Rep. Glenn Rogers, and Comptroller Glenn Hegar (who received a combined total $120,000). Of the 16 Republican candidates, Phelan and six others have been endorsed by the Texas State Teachers Association (part of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union). The TSTA also currently endorses Democrat gubernatorial candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke.
Butt has also heavily funded the Raise Your Hand Texas organization, which opposes school choice and advocates for spending more tax money on the current public system, as well as The Charles Butt Foundation, which also opposes school choice.
However, Butt’s campaigns have placed him at odds with a growing number of parents across the state. A 2022 Morning Consult poll revealed that 76 percent of Texas parents would support directly funding students instead of the current government system.
Additionally, a record number of Texas families are now choosing to homeschool their children. The Texas Home School Coalition reports a near tripling of homeschooled students between April and October 2020 (from 4.5-12.3 percent of all Texas students) making for a total of 750,000 homeschoolers in Texas alongside 250,000 students in Texas private schools.
The popularity of school choice among families and grassroots activists grew significantly during the COVID lockdowns, when parents across the nation were able to look more closely at the dysfunctional government monopoly system and what schools were teaching their children. As Texas Scorecard has frequently chronicled, many decried the troubling and sexually explicit curricula and racist ideologies taught in their children’s classrooms.
With the Republican Party of Texas selecting school choice as a legislative priority for the upcoming 2023 state legislative session, parents and citizens are eager to see how the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature will respond.