Voices Empower

Bad Decisions for Our Texas Schools

Donna Garner has posted in chronological order the events that have led us to the place where we are now — at the brink of the destruction of our Texas public schools not by the federal government this time but by the Democrats and left-leaning Republicans (Republicans-in-Name-Only — RINO’s) in our own Texas Legislature.

SBOE Redistrict [Please see the ACTION STEPS posted at the bottom of this e-mail that all Texas citizens must take if they want to save our Texas public schools.]

Because redistricting will lead to every Texas State Board of Education member’s seat being up for grabs in 2012, the all-important decisions being made by the Legislature will last for the next 10 YEARS.

Bottomline: There is a concerted effort being made in the Texas Legislature to destroy conservative SBOE members’ chances to get elected, and the redistricting maps passed by the legislature prove it.

My purpose in this e-mail is to make sure that the public fully understands how this concerted effort has been orchestrated. When left-leaning legislators who have colluded with their leaders to carry off this travesty of justice toward the conservatives realize that the public is wise to those schemes, the left-leaning disinformation campaign will go into full bore. I want to make sure Texas citizens are ready to counter with the evidence.

In fact, I have heard from conservative leaders across the state that they are now being contacted by those who are trying to intimidate them into silence. I also have been the recipient of such tactics. What these bullies need to understand is that their threats will not work because thankfully we in America still have the First Amendment right to free speech, and we have the right to share our thoughts and concerns with any and all.


On 4.6.11, I drove to Austin to meet with Rep. Todd Hunter, an influential and approachable member of the House. My purpose was to take to him a document that would communicate clearly what the majority of Texas State Board of Education members preferred to see on the upcoming redistricting map. After a cordial meeting, Rep. Hunter said I needed to share my document with Sen. Seliger which I did on 4.7.11. These dates are significant because they prove that the majority of the SBOE members did submit clear input to Sen. Seliger:


Sen. Kel Seliger, these are the recommendations that we grassroots citizens badly want to see reflected in the new Texas State Board of Education redistricting map:

1. Midland must be kept in Charlie Garza’s district (District 1). He is a Republican living in Democrat-strong El Paso. Charlie needs Midland where he has already developed solid relationships and good name recognition. We Republicans must not lose that seat.

2. Odessa needs to be kept in Bob Craig’s district (District 15) because he already has name recognition there. Bob Craig is a Republican.

3. David Bradley’s District 7 and Barbara Cargill’s District 8 look to be well drawn on the new SBOE redistricting map (http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/ — CSHB 600). Both David Bradley and Barbara Cargill are Republicans.

4. Because there has always been a competitive spirit between Tarrant County (where Pat Hardy lives) and Dallas County (where Mavis Knight and George Clayton live), the people of Tarrant County do not want two people (Clayton and Knight) from Dallas representing them on the SBOE as is found now in the CSHB 600 map. Pat Hardy’s district is 11; George Clayton’s district is 12; Mavis Knight’s district is 13. Pat Hardy and George Clayton are Republicans. Mavis Knight is a Democrat.

5. Ken Mercer’s district (District 5) needs to be centered between Bexar and Travis Counties where he has good name recognition. Again, we must not lose this seat to a Democrat. Ken Mercer is a Republican.

6. Gail Lowe (District 14 – where my husband and I live) needs to keep her two biggest counties – Denton and McLennan – where she has good name recognition. Gail has developed a sound relationship with the most successful charter school in McLennan County — the Rapoport Academy; and she has even been endorsed twice by the normally liberal Waco Tribune-Herald. People on both sides of the aisle in McLennan County speak favorably about Gail; and this helps us to keep this seat safe for Gail, a Republican.

7. Terri Leo’s district (District 6) needs to keep the precincts where she lives, works, has strong relationships, and high name recognition. We do not want to lose this seat to the Democrats. Terri Leo is a Republican.

8. It is vitally important to make sure that the SBOE map helps to keep a Republican in the SBOE seat that includes Democrat-dominated Travis County. (Marsha Farney is in District 10 and is a Republican.)

9. The grassroots citizens of this state are very concerned about the inordinate amount of power that Thomas Ratliff seems to wield among legislators. He has only been on the SBOE for one Board meeting (January 2011), yet he has been testifying in front of the Senate Education Committee and the Redistricting Committee. He has not declared himself to be a registered lobbyist, but he is definitely not representing the SBOE in any official capacity.

The new SBOE redistricting map appears to reward Thomas Ratliff by giving him close to the very same district that his political father, Bill Ratliff, had. This looks very questionable to Texas voters, particularly because of Thomas being a registered lobbyist for Microsoft and other education-related entities that do business with the TEA and the SBOE.

Many Texas voters believe that Thomas Ratliff is in direct violation of Texas Education Code, Subchapter A, Section 7.103 (c); and they also know that the SBOE has directed Gail Lowe (chair) to request an opinion on this matter from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott:

(c) A person who is required to register as a lobbyist under Chapter 305, Government Code, by virtue of the person’s activities for compensation in or on behalf of a profession, business, or association related to the operation of the board, may not serve as a member of the board or act as the general counsel to the board.

In conclusion, we grassroots citizens support the achievements that the Texas State Board of Education members have accomplished particularly in the area of the adoption of new English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR), Science, and Social Studies standards (TEKS).

These standards will help all of our Texas public school students to achieve academic excellence if implemented appropriately and if taught with fidelity.

We expect the Texas Legislature to reward the SBOE leaders (those on the Board during the adoption of these news standards) with an SBOE redistricting map that will help them to get re-elected if they so desire. We also want the newly elected Board members who support the new adopted TEKS to be successful in their 2012 elections.


Somewhere during this interval between 4.6.11 and 4.14.11, Pat O’Grady was brought in to help draw the SBOE redistricting map. O’Grady had been the one to draw the 2000 SBOE map that had successfully gone through all court challenges. O’Grady is a proven authority on the Voting Rights Act and on other redistricting laws.


On 4.14.11, Rep. Burt Solomons (known as one of 11 lieutenants for Speaker Joe Straus and appointed by him as the chair of the House Redistricting Committee) sent the SBOE map (E111) out of his committee and over to the Senate Redistricting Committee. [Solomons knew full well that the SBOE map would be coming back to the House eventually, and he could do his damage at that time.]


On 4.19.11, I received word from the SBOE that two improved maps had surfaced — E118 and E119. E118 was better for Ken Mercer and Gail Lowe because it kept Mercer’s district a compact Central Texas district. It restored more of Lowe’s original district and restored Pat Hardy’s original area. It kept Tarrant County split between Pat Hardy and Mavis Knight, rather than dividing Tarrant three ways, with a representative from Dallas (George Clayton). E118, which George Clayton supported, kept George Clayton in Dallas County, Rockwall County, and southern Collin County.

David Bradley and Barbara Cargill were satisfied with E118, but I was not able to get input from Terri Leo (who was deeply involved in TAKS testing because she is a Special Education teacher) to find out whether E118 or E119 contained her home, the place where she works, the places where she frequently does business, and where she has achieved high-name recognition.

E118 worked better for Charlie Garza, but E119 retrogressed Garza’s District 1. Knowledgeable people said that E119 would probably be thrown out by the Department of Justice.

Districts 2, 3, 4 and 13 were virtually unchanged in E118, as compared to the House engrossment map.

Marsha Farney had avoided working with the conservative SBOE members on a map, but I found out later that she was not worried because she had someone in the Lt. Governor’s office with whom she was working to give her a “dream” district.


Sen. Seliger is the left-leaning chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee who has only a 56% rating by Young Conservatives of Texas. He was appointed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Fifteen minutes before Seliger’s committee was to meet on 4.27.11, he suddenly produced rogue map E120 even though a gentleman’s agreement had been struck between him and the SBOE members that he would present E118 because the majority of the SBOE members preferred it:



District 5 – Ken Mercer (R – San Antonio)

 “My concerns are twofold. First, the input of the conservative members of the SBOE map E118 was purposely ignored by Sen, Seliger even though I personally called Seliger’s office as did a multitude of conservative groups to support map E118.”

 Absolutely no SBOE members nor organizations called to support Seliger’s rogue 120 map because that map was not even available when Seliger began his public hearing at 8:00 A. M.

Suspiciously, lobbyist and SBOE Member Thomas Ratliff arrived at Seliger’s Redistricting Committee meeting to testify FOR map E120 when that map had never been posted for public viewing.

In District 5, I now lose most of the conservative precincts of Travis County which I represented; those went to Marsha Farney in District 10. [Farney has only been seated on the SBOE for two meetings, and she has already exhibited moderate-to-left-leaning tendencies. – Donna Garner]

Suddenly and without any explanation or discussion, I was pushed into new areas and far northern counties — all because two Republicans did not want the east Texas conservative Republican base of Aggieland / College Station in their SBOE districts [Thomas Ratliff and Marsha Farney – Donna Garner].

Both Republican voting strength and my name ID in District 5 is decreased; and the lone Hispanic Republican on the SBOE, fellow Conservative Charlie Garza, became the primary target and #1 victim of “the RINO faction.”

Sen. Selinger’s rogue E120 map severely punishes conservative Charlie Garza, the lone Hispanic Republican on the SBOE. At the same time, E120 rewards two RINO’s, Thomas Ratliff and Bob Craig. What message does that map send to conservative Hispanics about the Texas GOP?

District 1 – Charlie Garza (R – El Paso)

Prior to April 28, 2011, several maps were introduced to redistrict the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) for the next ten years. All SBOE seats are open in 2012. Neither the House Redistricting Committee nor the Senate Redistricting Committee asked for any input from the lone Hispanic Republican (me) on the SBOE. Given that the state holds a majority in both houses, you would think that prudent.

Districts 1, 2, and 3 (under E118 or E120) ALL have higher numbers than was deemed acceptable in 2002. If one analyzes that data it is clearly evident that the Hispanic percent population in District 1 was 72.7%. So why is that NOT the starting point for retrogression measurement, rather than the 76.9% that was used?

So all of this extends the question of just what is retrogression, what is the baseline, and “how much is enough”? With multiple conflicting goals of various Voting Rights Act (VRA) decisions, the mathematics are such that you cannot satisfy all goals simultaneously. The primary goal was (and hopefully is) “one man one vote.” E120 is woefully pitiful in this regard, particularly as compared to E118.

[One-Man-One-Vote — OMOV — means that ideally districts should all be about the same size so that each citizen has the opportunity to have the same amount of access to his elected official. — Donna Garner]

Sen. Seliger determined that the “fix” to my District 1 was to remove “the white counties.” The end result under the Seliger plan is that District 1 is now approximately 60,000 less in population than the number of people needed to give me an opportunity at being re-elected in 2012.

On April 28, I initiated a call to Senator Seliger’s office and asked to speak to someone who was working on the SBOE redistricting plan. In my conversation with a staffer, I expressly asked why I had not even been given a phone call by a fellow Republican since Sen. Seliger’s plan had changed SBOE District 1 more than any other district in the state. Moreover, I requested to know why Odessa (Ector County) and Midland (Midland County) had been switched. Especially when I already have name recognition in Midland!

Approximately two hours later in a fit of anger, Sen. Seleger called me. I stated to Sen. Seliger that I had numerous concerns with the way he had conducted the Senate Redistricting Committee meeting the day before (4.27.11):

(1) He had given the public no opportunity for debate.

(2) I believe his actions violated the Open Meetings Act.

(3) The only map Sen. Seliger presented to the Senate Redistricting Committee was E120 which did not comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Section 2 since I would become a victim of Congressionally-mandated and judicially-enforced “racial packing.”

(4) Map E120 would also diminish the opportunity for Hispanics to have an effect on other districts by packing them into District 1.

As stated by The Lone Star Report on 2.18.11, the Voting Rights Act is not “a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their proportion to the population.” Section 2 is not intended to create racial quotas among elected officials. In fact, that is expressly forbidden by law.

Likewise, Section 2 does not require states to create the maximum number of districts possible in which the majority of the population is composed of members of a minority group. The Supreme Court has specifically rejected the establishment of a rule that would require governing bodies to maximize the number of so-called “majority-minority” districts. Instead, the purpose of Section 2 is to ensure that minority groups have the same ability to participate in elections and affect their outcomes as do other members of the electorate.

Before I had an opportunity to continue, Senator Seliger became argumentative and told me that the district in any map but his map would retrogress and that he had checked this with his attorneys. I responded by telling him that he was wrong especially since to my knowledge no definition exists on what retrogression is!

Instead of debating the merits of retrogression, Sen. Seliger continued to scold me as if I were a child.

When I tried to bring up the Open Meetings Act, Sen. Seliger, he said he would deny this allegation to any member of the media if the question were asked.

If the Republican Party truly advocates for a more inclusive big tent that includes conservative Hispanics, the Republican Party needs to address my grievous concerns right now while the SBOE redistricting map is being drawn.

District 14 – Gail Lowe (R – Lampasas)

The Solomons’ House map (E111) is particularly bad for me because my four most populous counties are given to four other board members:

1. I lose Wichita Falls area to Bob Craig.

2. I lose Wise and Denton (my most populous) counties to Pat Hardy.

3. I lose Grayson County (Sherman-Denison area) to Thomas Ratliff.

4. I lose McLennan County (Waco– my second most populous) to Marsha Farney.

My Central Texas district would wrap around the Dallas Metroplex area to the east, instead of to the west as it is now; and I would pick up 7 new counties. Most of my population would come from these counties that I have never represented before — 80 percent of my population would be new to me.

This map completely destroys my voter base and the areas I have represented since 2003.


4.22.11 — “Monumental Attack Against Texas Conservatives” –By Donna Garner

4.27.11 — “Every Parent’s Alamo: Update on Texas State Board of Ed. Redistricting Maps” — by Donna Garner

5.4.11 — A large group of conservatives went to Austin and meet with the Texas Attorney General’s office attorneys. This is the story of what happened: Governor Perry “Stand With Us”

5.5.11 — In another strange “coincidence,” even though the House has moved slowly on almost every other bill that has come down the pike this legislative session, suddenly, the day after a large group of influential Republicans and tea partiers met with the Texas Attorney General’s attorneys about the SBOE redistricting map, the House unexpectedly brought the SBOE map to the floor, decided to concur with the Seliger SBOE rogue map E120, and sent it to Gov. Perry’s desk for his signature. Here are more background details:

5.4.11 — “A Vote for the Record Book” — by Donna Garner

From Texas for Better Science Education – 5.6.11

Ten Reasons CSHB600 (Plan E120) needs to be vetoed:

1. Of all plans seriously considered, this is the WORST with respect to the principle of “One Man One Vote”. It has very large (and likely unconstitutional) disparities in the population sizes of the various SBOE districts…far above what the Department of Justice (DOJ) has struck down in the past. (more details below). The CSHB600 (the rogue plan E120) has a total variation from the “ideal” population per district ranging from -3.78% to +2.07% for a whopping 5.85% violation of the goal of “One Man One Vote”, while plan E118 has a total variation from the “ideal” population of only +/- 1%! Again, the Seliger rogue plan flaws are breathtaking.

2. Texas Senators failed to honor a “deal” struck two weeks ago in the House. The supposed deal was that the SBOE would prepare a plan (which they did over 2 weeks ago, plan E118), that the Senate would pass and the House would accept. Liberal GOP Senator Kel Seliger ignored this, and instead, rammed through a plan at the last minute that had been kept secret from interested parties.

3. To add insult, just before press it has been discovered that the rogue E120 was finalized Tuesday morning, a full day before the committee meeting, but was intentionally hidden from public view! This is in clear contrast to Legislative Council instructions that clearly state:

“Under federal regulations for the administration of the voting rights act of 1965, the state seeking preclearance of a redistricting plan from the U.S. Department of Justice is required to submit to the department materials that document the legislature’s consideration of public sentiment in its redistricting decisions and show that recognized racial and language minority groups had a reasonable opportunity to participate in the process.”

There was no such consideration.

4. Frankly and politically speaking, this plan is stupid for the Texas GOP, as it has been crafted to redistrict out one of the only GOP Hispanics elected to statewide office in 2010–conservative ex-Navy serviceman turned professional educator Charlie GARZA–who won fair and square in an overwhelmingly Hispanic and traditionally Democratic leaning district in 2010. The Voting Rights Act has never been held by the courts to require a particular party or candidate be preferred by redistricting as CSHB600 does–is this what it has now devolved into?

5. Most solid conservatives in the House, in spite of serious political pressure, voted against this terrible plan.

6. Ask the Governor and his staff to simply speak to the 6 SBOE conservatives themselves! Under the plan the SBOE submitted, 8 of the 15 explicitly, and 12 of the 15 members agreed verbally that E118 was the best possible all around plan. Only 1 of the 15 members is known to have even been contacted regarding E120!

7. Plan E118 has more Hispanic representation in District 1 than even plan E120 has in Districts 2 and 3, underscoring the “bad math” and blatantly political nature of plan E120!

8. Numerous Conservative and Tea Party groups around the state are absolutely outraged. One petition drive alone by a Tea Party group has garnished over 500 signatures per day since it’s inception!

9. By raising the Hispanic population in District 1 (currently held by Charlie Garza) to over 77.7%…4.5% and 5.5% higher than in districts 2 and 3, respectively, the CSHB600 map (rogue plan E120) could be considered “packing” of minority citizens into this district–a practice expressly forbidden by law as it dilutes their effective representation.

10. In his book “Fed Up!”, Governor Perry himself decries the blunt-instrument use of screaming “Voting Rights Act” (the redistricting equivalent to playing the race card), to justify various political and racial gerrymanders.

“I see a nation where people are not judged by the color of their skin – as they are today behind the façade of ending discrimination. I see a world where race-based thinking is relegated to the bigot in the corner and not embraced by our nation’s laws in the form of affirmative action [or] flawed incarnations of the Voting Rights Act…” Fed Up! by Rick Perry, p. 173

In short, Gov. Perry has an opportunity to act on his convictions above and to help remedy what one political insider described it as the “worse thing I’ve ever seen happen in my political career.”

Please take action today-now-sign the petition AND CALL AND FAX Governor Perry.

Thank you.

TBSE Volunteers



Why should we care who gets elected to the Texas State Board of Education?  Here’s why:

The Math standards are in the pipeline. We need those who believe in back-to-the-basics instead of “fuzzy” to be in charge of these standards.

Also, there is no law that says the SBOE members cannot open up the ELAR, Science, and Social Studies standards and change them. The left-leaning element would just love to take out all the patriotic, Constitutional, pro-American parts of the Social Studies TEKS.

Health standards are also coming up soon. Can you imagine what the left-leaning SBOE members if back in control of the SBOE would do to the abstinence part of the Health TEKS? We would have contraceptive studies in every classroom. Also, if left-leaning SBOE members tied to Texas Freedom Network are able to gain control of the Board, then the whole agenda of TFN would penetrate our schools. Below I have posted an article that contains TFN’s agenda.

Also, the conservatives on the SBOE have protected the huge pot of gold — the Permanent School Fund. By law the PSF is supposed to be spent on children’s textbooks forever. If the legislature is allowed to tap into the corpus (assets) of the PSF, the SBOE will lose their our ability to manage the fund in such a way as to make sure it grows and is able to keep paying for children’s textbooks.

If left-leaners were in control of the SBOE, they would beg the Obama administration to put Texas under the Common Core Standards/Race to the Top which is the takeover of the public schools by the feds. We would have national standards, national curriculum, national assessments, and a national database. Teachers’ evaluations/rehiring/incentives would be tied to how their students do on those national assessments. That would force every teacher to “teach to the national assessments.” The Common Core Standards have one main purpose in mind — to force school children to accept the social justice agenda. This goal will be worked into the national curriculum and national assessment questions.

TFN already “owns” a number of the present SBOE members; if we lost even a couple more conservatives on the Board, TFN and its agenda would completely take over all the decisions that impact every public school classroom in Texas. Here are links to various articles that I have written on the subject:

4.20.11 — “Liberals Messing Again — Open Letter to Texas Legislature

5.13.10 — “More Flailing Around by Texas Freedom Network”


3.29.10 — “Tired of Media Bias: Texas Freedom Network vs. Texas State Board of Education


9.6.09 — “Texas Textbooks — Texas Freedom Network Exposed



Please call, fax, and even email (in that order) Governor Perry’s office and urge veto of the SBOE redistricting bill (CSHB600) that has now been passed by Dems and non-conservatives in the Texas House and Senate. Governor Perry’s contact information is below, and some possible talking points are below that.


Citizen’s Opinion Hotline [for Texas callers] :

(800) 252-9600 or (512) 463-1782

Office of the Governor Main Switchboard [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST] : (512) 463-2000

FAX: Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849

Then (or while on hold on the Governor’s telephone line), please go to: Austin Tea Party’s Sign the Petition, sign the petition asking Gov. Perry to veto, and encourage your friends and email loops to do the same.



District 1 – Charlie Garza (conservative Republican, new to Board)

District 2 – Mary Helen Berlanga (Democrat)

District 3 – Michael Soto (Democrat, new to Board)

District 4 – Lawrence Allen (Democrat)

District 5 – Ken Mercer (conservative Republican)

District 6 – Terri Leo (conservative Republican)

District 7 – David Bradley (conservative Republican)

District 8 – Barbara Cargill (conservative Republican)

District 9 – Thomas Ratliff (Republican-in-Name-Only, new to Board)

District 10 – Marsha Farney (Republican, new to Board)

District 11 – Pat Hardy (Republican)

District 12 – George Clayton (Republican, new to Board)

District 13 – Mavis Knight (Democrat)

District 14 – Gail Lowe (conservative Republican)

District 15 — Bob Craig (Republican-in-Name-Only)



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