For those interested in fixing the public education system in Texas, they now have their number one target. According to sources, Gordon Johnson, the top political advisor to liberal House Speaker Joe Straus, has informed Straus’s vendors that Georgetown Republican Marsha Farney’s reelection is one of Straus’s “top five” races.

The vendors – including pollsters, consultants, and mail shops – have apparently been forbidden by Straus from helping Farney’s opponent.

This can only mean one thing. Straus is planning to appoint Farney as chairman of the Public Education Committee if he himself is reelected to office and as speaker. The current chairman of Public Education, Jimmie Don Aycock, is not seeking re-election.

Farney has not been a major player in the House since her election in 2012. She is most well known for passing bills designating pecan pie and the cowboy hat as state symbols. However she has been a consistent vote against education reform and has been placed in positions where she can be controlled by Straus and Johnson.

She is being challenged in the Republican primary by retired Army Colonel Terry Wilson, who has earned the endorsement of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Farney has never faced a contested election for state representative. After defeating a conservative opponent for a seat on the State Board of Education in 2010, Farney ran unopposed for an open House seat in 2012. Farney is well known as one of the legislature’s wealthiest members and can presumably put millions of dollars of personal wealth into her election effort.

Farney’s appointment as chairman of Public Education would be a disaster for anyone interested in reforming public education. During the most recent legislative session Farney was one of the 12 most liberal Republicans, earning a 59 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.

Last session Farney supported a liberal “community schools” bill designed to turn public schools into full-service social welfare offices. She also supported a Democrat bill designed to weaken property tax rollback rate protections.

For education reformers, their number one target is clear. Anyone supporting Marsha Farney, or sitting on the sidelines, cannot honestly say they are interested in fixing Texas’ education system.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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