Legislation filed in the Texas Senate could help root out waste, fraud, and abuse in the Texas Education Agency.
Senate Bill 933 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) would establish an Office of the Inspector General inside the TEA, the agency tasked with overseeing the more than 1,000 school districts in Texas.
“Nearly 25 percent of the current state budget goes towards public education,” said Bettencourt. “The Texas Education Agency is one of the few major agencies that does not already have authority for an Office of Inspector General. This bill will ensure that taxpayer money is not being wasted and will give the agency the ability to root out fraud and abuse.”
The new office would be given the authority to conduct criminal, civil, and administrative investigations on public school districts, charter schools, and other local education agencies. Similar positions exist inside other state agencies, such as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Bettencourt also referenced “shocking testimony” before the Senate Education Committee in 2017 when he filed similar legislation. Mike Morath, the Texas Education Commissioner, discussed several incidents which indicated the need for an Inspector General, such as pay-to-play schemes, threats of violence, and even district procurement officials being murdered execution style.
While the legislation passed the Senate unanimously last session, it failed to receive a vote in the Texas House.
With 26 joint authors, Bettencourt is hoping to get it across the finish line this year.
“Taxpayers deserve to know that their money is being spent properly and efficiently,” Bettencourt added. “An agency that is responsible for monitoring $60 billion of public money per year needs the accountability that an Office of Inspector General will bring.”