Houston Corporate Tentacle Map: The School District

Round two of the Houston Corporate Tentacle Map is not meant to target any specific elected official, it’s meant to answer questions like:

Why are schools in predominantly black neighborhoods being gutted of programs?
Why are schools in predominantly black neighborhoods frontrunners for charters?
Why are we in a position of chartering first instead of deciding how to properly fund?
How does this connect to Houston’s rampant gentrification issue?

RELATED: Texas Laws Forces School Districts Into Privatization & Holds Democracy Hostage

The Board of Education is the official policy-making body of Houston Independent School District (HISD). They are a non-partisan board, and because they did not use their non-partisan campaign money to contribute to the organization’s of their party’s preference, unlike the actions of the mayor and city council, I will not outline who is Republican and who is Democrat.

The numbers and corporations being presented to you are from the trustees’ 2016–2018 campaign finance reports — but there’s kind of an issue.

On HISD website, their reports are listed with their profile which is where I gathered my initial info, 2016–2018 campaign finance reports, as seen here: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/42019

However, that’s not all of them. Had to Google “HISD election page” to pull up all of their reports from the 2017 election. Even then, this list does not have Rhonda Skillern-Jones’ reports: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/162429

Because I am having a difficult time finding all of the campaign finance reports for 2016–2018, we will be going off of the reports listed in their profile and the 2017 election reports as linked in the two paragraphs before this one.

Names of the HISD trustees found on: http://www.houstonisd.org/domain/10786

First we are going to start with the corporations we found in Houston Corporate Tentacle Map: Mayor & City Council and who they contributed to for Houston’s school district.

For ease of use, the corporations will be in alphabetical order. At least until we get to Wal-Mart, then things will change up a bit.

BRH-Garver Construction, L.P.

BRH has four open contracts with the city of Houston.

Santos received $700 from C.M. Garver, but naturally he is not listed that he owns the company or put the name of the company.

Review his pattern in campaign finance reports, how $32,700 was allocated to the mayor and city council, and get an overview of the company in the Mayor & City Council research.

Branch Group

Adams received $1,000 from Theldon R. Branch III who is only listed as self-employed.

Review the three companies Branch owns, how $11,000 was allocated to the mayor and city council, and his Bloomberg profile listing the Houston committees he has been on in the Mayor & City Council research.

Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP

Linebarger has three open contracts with the city and one of their employees is a subcontractor with his own firm for each contract.

Adams received $3,000 from the firm and $500 from Darryl B. Carter, a Linebarger attorney, and the employee that is a subcontractor as referenced in the last paragraph. Carter lists himself as a lawyer, but does not put his employer’s name.

Jones received $500 from Carter, and $3,000 from the firm. Carter lists Linebarger as his employer.

Vilaseca received $1,000 from the firm.

Lira received $1,000 from Darryl Carter.

Review Linebarger’s and Carter’s ties, and how $38,093.75 was allocated to the mayor and city council— and campaign finance report pattern — in the Mayor & City Council research.

Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins, & Mott LLP

This law firm has one open contract with the city.

Davila received $500.

Adams received $500 from the firm and $100 from Yolanda Humphrey, an attorney at the firm.

Review this firm’s ties, how $13,775 was allocated to the mayor and city council, and what their firm does in the Mayor & City Council research.

The next list of corporations and PACs were not found in the Mayor & City Council research, so I will begin alphabetically again.

Andrews & Kurth Kenyon LLP

This firm has five open contracts with the city.

This firm used their PAC to contribute to some of the HISD board members. They’ve also donated to both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate over the years (OpenSecrets).

From their website:

“At Andrews Kurth Kenyon, ‘straight talk’ guides everything we do. It’s how we converse with clients, colleagues, courts — and even our adversaries. It means we pursue issues head-on, rather than detouring into legalese. It means we cut through the confusion and find simple solutions to help our clients succeed.”

List of industries they work with, here.

Adams received $2,000 from the PAC.

Skillern received $1,000.

Jones received $1,500.

Sung received $1,000.

Vilaseca received $750 from Geoffrey Walker, a lawyer at Andrews & Kurth.

Thompson & Horton LLP

This firm’s partner, J. David Thompson II, serves as legislative counsel for Houston Independent School District — the administration and the school board — and has previously served as General Counsel for the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

“Also he and Dr. Mike Moses, former Texas Commissioner of Education, regularly assist school boards in searches for superintendents.”

RELATED: Texas Laws Forces School Districts Into Privatization & Holds Democracy Hostage

These last two paragraphs come straight from their website. Read all of Thompson’s experience, here.

From their website:

“Our long history of focusing on schools, colleges, and public entities has enabled us to come to the table already prepared with a solid understanding of the business operations and objectives of our clients. A number of our attorneys are former educators and know firsthand the issues and concerns facing public schools. At T&H, we believe that the best lawyers do not just know the law; they know the business and practical concerns that their clients face and how these concerns affect legal decision-making.”

The firm donated $4,000 to Adams and $2,000 to Jones, and has sponsored events for the district.

As you may have noticed, I try to do everything in alphabetical order to keep it easy. However, before we talk about GPS Action PAC, we must talk about Wal-Mart.

The Walton Family/ Walton Foundation (Wal-Mart)

The Walton family donated a total of $15,000 to Vilaseca. Note in the screenshot below that this is not from the foundation or any of the organizations the Waltons are part of — this is directly from the Waltons.

From Vilaseca’s campaign finance report

The Waltons are well known for being school choice as they committed in 2016 to spend $1 billion on charters over five years. Their foundation’s website has a “public charter startup grant.”

Steuart Walton is on the national board of Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), which is heavily entrenched with Teach for America (TFA). TFA has a Walton Family Foundation K-12 Education Program that they openly talk about on their website.

In 2011, LEE gave TFA a $49.5 million grant for a period of two years, then gave them another $50 million grant in 2015 for a period of three years. It’s 2018 and that three-year grant from 2015 is about to expire.

A simple search using “charter” in the search tool on LEE’s website shows that the charter movement is of interest to them and their members.

Vilaseca received $6,000 from LEE.

Sung received $9,500 from LEE.

Now let’s take a look at a how a local PAC has some connections to the Waltons.

GPS Action PAC

The GPS Action PAC was formed in 2017 in part by Houstonians for Great Public Schools (HGPS) which has five board members.

Per a GPS Action PAC finance report from 2017, Adams, Deigaard, Vilaseca, and Sung each received $10,000.

Weekley Properties, which donated a total of $8,500 to mayor and city council per 2016–2017 campaign finance reports, are donors for the GPS Action PAC.

David Weekley donated $10K and Richard Weekley donated $10K to the PAC.

The Weekleys also donated $5,000 to Jones.

Now, here’s where things tie back to Wal-Mart.

Joseph G. Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer of Alta Resources, L.L.C, is on the board for HGPS. However, he is also on Houston’s Teach for America board. Weren’t we just talking about Teach for America and their ties to the Waltons? Greenberg donated $10,000 to GPS Action PAC.

Greenberg is also a board member of YES Prep Schools which recently, March 2018, received $790,000 from the Walton Foundation.

Know who else is on the board of YES Prep Schools? Rev. Leslie Smith who is on the board of HGPS.

Douglas L. Foshee, president and chief executive officer of Sallyport Investments LLC, is also on the board for HGPS. However, he’s also on the executive board for KIPP Houston going by Doug instead of Douglas. Foshee donated $1,668 as an in-kind contribution for office space for GPS Action.

RELATED: Foshee & Kinder Morgan Colluded in El Paso

The Walton Family is honored as one of KIPP’s $5 million donors, and Carrie Walton Penner, a Walton, is on KIPP’s board.

Surely we’ve all already seen KIPP’s presence in the Houston area.

Remember, HGPS has five board members. Care to count how many of them operate on boards influenced by the Waltons? Three, the answer is three. Three out of the five are on boards that have been directly influenced by the Waltons.

Houston Taxpayers for Quality Education SPAC

This is a specific purpose action committee, to learn about their function click here. Looks like this group would fall under:

“Supporting or opposing identified measures. A political committee that supports or opposes one or more identified measures is a specific-purpose political committee. An identified measure is a proposal submitted to the voters in an election. The term ‘identified measure’ also includes the circulation and submission of a petition to determine whether a proposal must be submitted to the voters.”

Camden Property Trust donated $5,000 to this SPAC. Camden is represented by Houston Apartment Association which contributed $26,000 to the mayor and city council.

InTownHomes donated $1,000 to this SPAC. Also known as Lovett Homes, their CEO, Frank Liu, has donated $21,000 to the mayor and city council.

Kinder Morgan donated $8,000 to this SPAC. Learn all about how the Kinders are renaming Houston’s High School for Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) to make it their name here.

Regency Main LLC donated $2,500 to this SPAC. This organization operates in the appraiser, real estate industry.

Houston Taxpayers for Quality Education paid for a commercial on ESPN supporting the recapture vote, according to Off the Kuff.

Brings us back to these questions…

Why are schools in predominantly black neighborhoods being gutted of programs?
Why are schools in predominantly black neighborhoods frontrunners for charters?
Why are we in a position of chartering first instead of deciding how to properly fund?
How does this connect to Houston’s rampant gentrification issue?

Remember:

On HISD website, their reports are listed with their profile which is where I gathered my initial info, 2016–2018 campaign finance reports, as seen here: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/42019

However, that’s not all of them. Had to Google “HISD election page” to pull up all of their reports from the 2017 election. Even then, this list does not have Rhonda Skillern-Jones’ reports: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/162429

Because I am having a difficult time finding all of the campaign finance reports for 2016–2018, everything I’ve found listed in this article is from the reports listed in their profile and the 2017 election reports as linked in the two paragraphs before this one.