Voices Empower

“Texas Legislators: Determining Students’ Fate”

Date posted: May 14, 2013

by Donna Garner 5.14.13

*Do not miss the short response that I wrote back to Sen. Dan Patrick – posted at the bottom of this e-mail.

Today HB 866 and HB 2836 will be debated in the Senate Education Committee. If passed, both bills would destroy the writing skills of our Texas public school students.

Torin Halsey/Times Record News Fifth grader Ryker Beasley pays close attention to a problem being solved on the board in math class at City View Elementary. City View teachers are the rare teachers in North Texas who do not use CSCOPE. "We'd worked so hard at what we are doing, we didn't want to dump it in the trash and jump on a new system," said City View testing director Maureen Talbott. "What we're doing seems to be working. We have teachers who are working their tails off but are pleased with what they're doing."

Photo Courtesy Torin Halsey/Times Record News

I would hate to be in these Texas Legislators’ shoes and leave behind the legacy from the 83rdLegislative Session as being the one that destroyed students’ chances to live fulfilling lives, both hindering their future choices and limiting  their opportunities in life.




On 4.30.13, the Texas House passed unanimously HB 2836.  This bill removes STAAR testing of Writing in 4th and 7th grades, the only two grade levels below high school in which Writing is tested on the STAAR.  

Writing is communication. When done well, good communication occurs. When done poorly, communication breaks down.

If HB 2836 and HB 866 were to make it out of the Texas Legislature, the public accountability for teachers in K-8 to teach children to write well would be lifted.  The end result: 

“What gets measured gets treasured.”  

“What gets tested gets taught.” 

“What doesn’t get tested does not get taught.”



Written communication involves two different factors: (1) clearly worded content in English and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation in English that clearly communicate the writer’s message.

Yes, good writing is an important communication skill for a multitude of reasons.

However, guess what the weakest score on the 9th grade STAAR/EOC’s given last year was…Writing.  



On 1.29.13, the Texas Education Agency announced the STAAR end-of-course test results from last year’s 9th graders.  Below are the percentages (cumulative) of students who failed the Spring 2012 STAAR/EOC’s: 


  • English I Writing  — 27.4%
  • Algebra I  — 15.3%
  • English I Reading — 18.8%
  • Biology  — 9.0%
  • World Geography — 15.2%


Also released on 1.29.13 were the Grades 4 and 7 STAAR Writing results:

29% (cumulative) of all Grade 4 and 7 students failed the STAAR Writing test.  



It is the lack of college-ready and workforce-ready skills in written communication among our Texas high-school graduates that frustrates employers and college professors the most.   

Our Texas public school students desperately need to improve their abilities to communicate in writing. 

All the way from K through Grade 12, our Texas students need teaching and accountability in both aspects of composition: (1) clearly worded content and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation that clearly communicate the writer’s message.

These skills are not going to improve over night; we cannot wait until 9th grade to hold students accountable for good written communication skills. 

The new curriculum standards in English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR-TEKS) adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education in May 2008 carefully lay out grade-level-specific writing elements that teachers need to teach and students need to learn. These ELAR/TEKS grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, and the composition requirements do the same.  

The slow, steady progression of rigor in composition skills along with the public accountability on the STAAR/EOC Writing tests is what will result in Texas high-school graduates who can communicate well in writing.  


*HB 5 which also passed the House does not require students to take the STAAR/EOC in English III.  This is a capstone grade level.   The STAAR/EOC in English III is meant to hold students (and their teachers) accountable for sophisticated composition skills.  

As students progress through school, their composition skills will improve if it is evaluated for both (1) content and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation.  

To dump 4th and 7th grade STAAR Writing tests will send a message to both students and teachers that written composition is not important; and, therefore, other subject matter tested on the STAAR tests will supplant an emphasis on quality composition skills.    




CSCOPE and the Green Yellow and RedGenerally, I believe there are two different types of philosophies of education; and nearly all educators, curriculum, vendors, organizations, and advocacy groups fall into one of these two categories.  (3.3.13 — “Type #1 and Type #2 — Two Completely Different Philosophies of Education” –

Next, there are also three different types of individuals involved; and we can see this all across America.


The “green” people are those who go-along to get-along; they go with the status quo and are content to follow whatever teaching fad is in vogue at the present time. These people are not bad people but are easily deceived by those who have ulterior motives (e.g., drive-by media, national educator organizations, left-leaning politicians, CSCOPE, Common Core Standards).


The “yellow” people are those who are driven by greed, money, power, and fame. Many of these people are vendors, lobbyists, or school employees who look past the egregious content of their products so long as they themselves are benefitting.  Into this group fall some CSCOPE/TESCCC/ESC employees, Thomas Ratliff, Mike Moses, Pat Jacoby, TASA, TASB, etc.


The “red” people know exactly what they are doing. They have long-term goals to change America, and they realize that the best way to do this is to indoctrinate this and succeeding generations of school children in their classrooms.  Into this group fall such people as Obama, Arne Duncan, Linda Darling-Hammond, Bill Ayers, the National Education Organization, and many other left-leaners.      


Politicians can come in all different colors – green, yellow, and red. Those who blindly follow are green. Those who seek fame, fortune, and/or control for themselves are yellow. Those whose aim is to change America from a capitalistic, free-market Republic into a Socialist, Communist, Marxist country are red.  


I do not believe that very many of our Texas Legislators fall into the “red” category, but I do believe many of them do fall into the “green” or “yellow” categories.


Guess whose daughter is a lobbyist for Raise Your Hand…Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock’s, the chair of the House Education Committee. He has even been known to stop the proceedings on the House floor to call Raise Your Hand to get their “blessing” on education issues.  I wonder who Aycock called!


Guess which organization is totally committed to preserving the “yellow” people…Raise Your Hand which is led by Bill Ratliff, Mike Moses, and the education establishment (TASA/TASB, etc.).


Is it any wonder that this session’s legislators are giving the ed establishment every wish they could possibly ever desire?


I have written extensively about the importance of keeping the New Plan in place. What you and Aycock as the education leaders in the legislature are doing is destroying the progress that we conservatives have worked for well over 10 years to put into place – Type #1 TEKS, Type #1 STAAR/EOC’s, individual accountability for both teachers and students through having grade-level-specific goals, a graduation plan that would, if allowed to be fully implemented, eventually elevate the college and career readiness of our high-school graduates.


What you and the other legislators are doing is going to throw us back into the  same 1997 – 2007 mess our public schools were in for ten years, thus allowing Type #2 to continue to do its damage.  Without the public accountability at each grade level to grade-level-specific Type #1 curriculum standards, there will be no incentive for teachers to teach the new Type #1 TEKS; and they will go right on teaching their Type #2 curriculum units.  Without the STAAR/EOC’s at each grade level, the parents will have no measuring stick to prove whether their children have been taught Type #1 or Type #2.

I have tried over and over to explain to non-educators what it is like in the public schools; and by now after going through this CSCOPE mess (largely created because of SB 6), you should understand how vicious and hard-nosed the education establishment can be.  The only way to force them to change direction from Type #2 to Type #1 is to hold them publicly accountable individually. 

Without the STAAR Writing tests being given from K to 8,  English teachers are simply not going to teach students grammar/usage/spelling/cursive writing/expository/persuasive/research and will fall back to the same Type #2 holistic scoring that has turned out the type of graduates we have right now. 

By not requiring all students to take World History and World Geography, irreparable harm will be done to students’ grasp of America’s place in the history of this world; and we will see low-information voters fall for any charlatan who comes along. 

Not requiring at least Algebra II for all students will allow many students to take the path of least resistance while they are young and immature; and many of them when they arrive in their senior year of high school will suddenly realize that they are unprepared for their future choices.

Students need four rigorous years of high school. The New Plan requires students to spend four rigorous years of high school – no more sloughing off the junior and senior years.  The idea of basically allowing students to choose a career pathway early in their high-school career and then de-emphasizing the 4 x 4 rigor of the junior and senior years is indeed the Marc Tucker plan.


The following article (and enclosed links) says it best:



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Matt Beebe must be “making Joe Straus and Bill Hammond sweat.”

Date posted: May 21, 2012

By Donna Garner

Texas Lobbyist Bill Hammond

Photo courtesy of the Statesman

This is the “silly season” in politics when unethical candidates start releasing their lies. Rep. Joe Straus must be worried to have launched this attack today through his surrogate, Bill Hammond, a registered lobbyist from Austin.  Matt Beebe must be “making Joe Straus and Bill Hammond sweat.”

If Speaker of the House Joe Straus were to lose this election, Bill Hammond and the Texas Association of Business would lose their political clout and personal privilege.  According to The Texas Tribune ( Bill Hammond/TAB have spent large amounts of money to influence the legislature and their staffs.

I trust that the voters of HD 121 will do the right thing in the Republican primary by ousting Joe Straus and electing Matt Beebe as their candidate. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from the Beebe Campaign

May, 21st 2012



(San Antonio) Today Matt Beebe called out Joe Straus and his Austin lobbyist, Bill Hammond, to cease spreading false information regarding Mr. Beebe’s taxes.

On Friday BAC PAC, the campaign arm of Texas Association of Business, released an attack on Matt Beebe where they accused Beebe of operating businesses which had gone into tax foreclosure and forfeiture. The statement that Beebe had “operated both companies while he had forfeited their right to exist” is a blatant lie. 

Matt Beebe commented on this lie saying, “This is a blatant lie that was easily verifiable, had this lobbyist desired to use his clever Open Records Request to determine facts, instead of misrepresent them and smear me, my business, and the employees who rely upon my business for their livelihood.”

“It’s a shame that a lobbyist who claims to represent businesses could show such a blatant disregard for the truth regarding my successful small businesses. Bill Hammond has definitely tipped his hand on whom he serves. Perhaps he has spent a little too much time in Austin and should consider getting back into the private sector to remember the nuances of running a small business.”

“We demand an apology and an immediate retraction of this vicious slander.  I understand the need for Joe Straus to rely upon surrogates to spread lies given his pledge that his campaign ‘won’t tear down our opponent’, but even these sycophantic surrogates must be held to a basic standard of truth. While the details are complex, the truth is quite simple – we never improperly operated our businesses” Beebe concluded.

The truth is that Digitactics, Inc never transacted business as a Texas Corporation until 2012, even though it was founded in 2005 and allowed to go dormant when Mr. Beebe chose not to start his small business as originally planned.  After starting HEI Systems & Solutions LLC in 2007, and purchasing a struggling small business in July of 2011, it was decided – independently of Mr. Beebe’s eventual decision to run for office – that rolling up all business entities under the Digitactics trade-name effective 1 January 2012 was the appropriate strategic decision.  Initially the plan was to reincorporate under Digitactics, Inc, however the Comptroller’s office informed Mr. Beebe that the existing legal entity could be administratively cleared through the filing of additional paperwork, which subsequently occurred.

With respect to HEI Systems & Solutions LLC, in 2007 it was founded as a subsidiary corporation, and the parent-child relationship was incorrectly recorded by the Comptroller’s office.  Therefore when annual Public Information Reports and Franchise Tax filings were reported, they did not get aligned to the proper entity.  This was also subsequently cleared up.

Matt Beebe is a successful business owner in San Antonio. 


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Date posted: July 3, 2011

by Donna Garner

Now that the 82nd Texas Legislative Session is over, I need to summarize the outrageous decisions made by our elected officials that are likely to hamper the hard work of the conservatives on the Texas State Board of Educationfor the next ten years and may, thus, harm the 4.7 million students in our Texas public schools.

I believe one of the worst failures of this session was that our Texas Legislators allowed themselves to be influenced by Thomas Ratliff who is under investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Since January 2011, Thomas has been a Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) member even though he is in clear violation of the Texas Education Code because he is a lobbyist for education-related clients such as Microsoft and two other institutional private equity money management firms that do business with the SBOE upon which he sits.

On June 14, 2011, Thomas Ratliff, who has made tens of thousands of dollars from his education lobbying clients, had the gall to write a commentary for the Houston Chronicle.  His intent was to belittle those grassroots citizens and elected officials who did not want to drain the Rainy Day Fund but who want the public schools to live within their means.

Thomas does not seem to understand that his rhetoric rings hollow with the public now that they know of his vested interests:  Everyone understands that the more money schools get from the legislature, the more money Thomas will make from his education-related clients.

Still trying to live a lie, Thomas said in his Houston Chronicle commentary, “I have no clients in the education industry. I have no financial interest in public education, period.”


Whom is Thomas trying to fool?
Anyone can go to the Texas Ethics Commission website and see his lobbying clients for the last ten years, including the 2011 Lobby List dated June 30, 2011. He clearly does business and has long-standing relationships with a number of education-related clients such as Microsoft, AIG, and T-Mobile. All of these entities stand to make money from the education trough from which Ratliff has fed for many years. Here are a few of his clients: Texas Ethics Commission Lobby List with Clients – June 30, 2011

 Ratliff, Robert Thomas  (00031723)
 500 West 13th Street  Austin, TX 78701
     American International Group
     2929 Allen Parkway Suite L4-02  Houston, TX 77019
     Type of Compensation: Prospective
     $10,000 - $24,999.99
     Client Start Date: 01/11/2011
     Client Term Date: 12/31/2011

      Microsoft Corporation
     One Microsoft Way  Redmond, WA 98052
     Type of Compensation: Prospective
     $50,000 - $99,999.99
     Client Start Date: 01/11/2011
     Client Term Date: 12/31/2011

     T-Mobile USA
     12920 SE 38th Street  Bellevue, WA 98006
     Type of Compensation: Prospective
     $25,000 - $49,999.99
     Client Start Date: 01/11/2011
     Client Term Date: 12/31/2011

Thomas’ has powerful family members and associates. Talk about irony — his father is Bill Ratliff who wrote SB 1 in 1995 that included the Texas Education Code language making it illegal for a lobbyist to serve on the SBOE!

Other associates of the Ratliff family are Charles Butt of HEB and Mike Moses, who has made a fortune living off education dollars. To learn more about Thomas Ratliff and his education-related associates, including Bill Gates, please go to the April 21, 2011 article by Peyton Wolcott: FATHER KNOWS BEST?

Because Thomas camps on legislators’ desks during the session, he was able to use his power and wealth to get Sen. Seliger to draft an SBOE redistricting map that decimates conservative SBOE members’ districts for the next ten years yet sets Thomas up in a picture-perfect district.

The miserable SBOE redistricting map could set the Board back for at least the next ten years. It has been the conservatives on the SBOE who have led the effort to implement authentic education reform in our public schools by rewriting the standards documents upon which all classroom instruction and testing are built.

The Texas Attorney General is supposed to conclude his investigation of Thomas Ratliff by the end of August or first of September; and with all of the incriminating evidence posted publicly for all to see, the AG is bound to conclude that Ratliff is in direct violation of the TEC and must be removed from the SBOE.

To read more details, please go to the following article: “Thomas Ratliff’s Brazen Gall” by Donna Garner 4.3.11

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