The Texas Association of School Boards, or TASB, is a statewide organization that supports local school boards with services like training, lobbying and insurance. Boards join voluntarily, and TASB boasts that all of the public school districts in Texas are members.
But that could change on Monday, when the board of trustees for the Carroll Independent School District will vote on whether to remain with the association, citing the statewide group’s promotion of “divisive political ideologies,” and the district’s ability to find cheaper substitutes for its services.
Liz Campbell, who covers northeast Tarrant County for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, spoke to the Texas Standard about what’s behind the possible departure.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: You point out in your reporting that this may not have been an idea that generated within Carroll ISD first, because you’ve reported that a group of state lawmakers are actually encouraging districts to leave TASB?
Liz Campbell: That is correct. There is a state representative, Brian Harrison, out of Waxahachie. He is a Republican. And in January – in fact, on January 30th, to be exact – he sent a letter to all of the school districts encouraging them to leave the Texas Association of School Boards over what he said were concerns that that organization doesn’t align with the values of the majority of Texans.
So why might Carroll ISD leave this association of school boards?
Well, first of all, I will say that I posed that question in an email to the school board president to give me some comment on what the thinking was behind that. And he wrote a note back to me, which I included in my story, which basically said that the school board does not comment on items before all board members have had a chance to discuss and/or vote on them. I will just note here also that the resolution that is on the Carroll School District agenda also uses very similar language to what is in Harrison’s letter.
Is there any indication as to what values, what ethics they’re talking about specifically that TASB might promote that don’t align with the values of Texans?
Well, in his letter, Mr. Harrison criticized TASB for waiting almost a year to leave a national school boards organization which had called for federal law enforcement investigations of the behavior of and the actions of parents who had attended school board meetings. He also criticized TASB over issuing new legal guidelines on transgender policies in the school districts. And he said that – I’m kind of quoting here from my story – “appears to encourage school districts to refrain from reporting abuse and to obscure information regarding children exhibiting gender dysphoria from their parents.” So that is the point of view of Mr. Harrison.
Carroll ISD is the first district that we know of that is voting on whether to leave. Do we think that there would be more?
That is the first that I am aware of. I am currently looking into whether other school districts also have plans on leaving TASB. I know that from monitoring board meetings in several of our North Texas school districts that during public comment sessions there have been comments from parents and others who have encouraged these school districts to leave TASB.
What would that mean? I mentioned lobbying, training, insurance – is this support that districts could get elsewhere?
Well, in Carroll, for example, part of the resolution states that the superintendent would then be tasked with issuing a request for proposal for other services from “the free market.” That would come at a lower cost to taxpayers. So I honestly am looking into those questions right now.