Led by Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian), nine conservative state legislators sent a formal letter to every Texas public school board Monday describing TASB’s legal guidance as “dangerous” and claiming it could encourage districts to violate state law banning biological males from participating in girls’ sports.
“It’s bad enough that harmful woke ideology is being pushed on Texas students over the objection of their parents, but worse that local elected officials are forcing those same parents to fund it with their tax dollars,” said Harrison in a statement.
“That must end. I appreciate my colleagues joining me in fighting to stop the continued weaponization of our constituents’ tax dollars against them.”
TASB is a private, nonprofit association of school boards and is not subject to open meetings law or Public Information Act requests. It holds trainings for school board members, some of which are required for trustees by law. The group also lobbies the Legislature and provides legal representation to board members.
Every Independent School District (ISD) and most public charter school networks pay annual membership dues to TASB. Dues range from $800 to $11,000 per year depending on the size of the district; a TASB spokesperson told The Texan the median dues are $2,500 annually.
Earlier this month, conservative lawmakers in the Texas Freedom Caucus (TFC) sent a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton requesting a review of TASB’s transgender policy guidance. Among the concerns listed, the caucus accused TASB of advising school districts to allow males to enter female restrooms or locker rooms and discouraging school officials from reporting child abuse related to medical sex change procedures.
TASB disputes this characterization of their transgender legal guidance, saying the document was in response to questions received from school districts and “conveys that this is a complex and emerging area of law involving sensitive decisions.”
Harrison’s letter also criticizes TASB for taking a full year to terminate its relationship with the National School Board Association (NSBA).
In 2021, NSBA President Viola Garcia, former president of TASB, sent a letter to the Biden administration accusing parents at school board meetings of engaging in acts of “malice, violence, and threats against public school officials,” and called for federal law enforcement investigation and intervention. Garcia referred to “heinous” actions by parents “that could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
Last May, Harrison urged school board presidents in his House district to stop sending funds to TASB, noting that while 20 other states had left NSBA, the Texas affiliate had still not taken action. Later that month, TASB publicly announced its plan to leave the national association.
Regarding TASB’s training for school board members, Harrison’s letter notes there are other approved training programs available.
While not subject to public information, TASB’s school board training programs have previously drawn scrutiny for allegedly referring to dissenting board members and parents as “malcontents and mutineers” and offering strategies for stifling dissent.
Last year, one charter school network formally terminated its TASB membership, noting the organization had taken an adversarial position against public charter schools during the 2021 legislative session.
TASB’s priorities for the 2023 legislative session include advocating for the restoration of Chapter 313 tax abatements, limitations on charter school growth and funding, and state grants to continue funding programs established using temporary federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Update: In response to Harrison’s letter, TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell sent a letter to all public school board presidents disputing the characterization of the organization’s legal guidance. Troxell also asserts that “TASB did not take nearly a year to leave NSBA,” saying that while Garcia’s call to investigate parents came in September 2021, disclosure of new information prompted TASB’s decision in May 2022.
A copy of the lawmakers’ letter to TASB can be found below.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.