School Board Leaders Fear Effect of Law:

Below is an article from the Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau (back in the days when they had one).  It tells about an effort by the 73rd Legislature to corral the increasingly common experience of having school board members be school board members in order to feather their own nests.

I have always opposed such actions by board members.  School Board members cannot represent the public and especially the students if they are first interested in garnering income from a business or a business association with a school district.

Despite having to file "conflict of interest" statements, too many board members get around that stipulation and continue to make money off of their association with a school district.

Read the article, and then read my discussion of it that follows.

Article by Cindy Rugeley

Friday, July 2, 1993

Austin --  Texas school board leaders fear a conflict of interest law passed during the closing days of the 73rd Legislature could force thousands of school board members across the state to resign.

But sponsors of the bill and Gov. Ann Richards, who signed the measure into law, argue school board members are exaggerating its effect and that it is good public policy.

The Texas Education Agency in an effort to resolve the questions surrounding the bill, will seek an opinion from the Texas attorney general on exactly what it requires.

The law, part of a measure that passed both the House and the Senate with little comment, says a school board may not contract with a company in which a board member or board member's spouse has a "significant interest."

It was added to a bill that prohibits school board members from going to work for school districts while they are on the board.

Texas Association of School Boards lobbyist Margaret La Montagne [who later worked for the TEA!] said the measure could be interpreted to mean that those who receive 10 percent of their annual income from a given company must either resign from the school board or the board must refrain from doing business with that company.

She said stock holders in a company might fall within the purview of the law.

LaMontagne argues that people who work, for instance, for Southwestern Bell, IBM or a local bank could be forced to resign simply because the school district does business with those companies.

"If I understand the law correctly, it is a very bad law," said Don McAdams, president of the Houston Independent School District."

"I can imagine real problems.  You would eliminate a huge class of people from serving."

McAdams said his wife works for Exxon, and that he likely would have to resign [from] the board, if the interpretation is correct.

But Rep. Ciro Rodriquez, D-San Antonio, who added the amendment to the bill, said the way school board members are interpreting the law is wrong.  He said it was designed to keep people who own a business and serve on a school board from contracting with their own companies.

Richards spokesman, Chuck McDonald agreed that the law was designed to eliminate such conflict of interest.

"This law addresses two very serious problems to the public in Texas," said McDonald.  "School board members shouldn't be hired by school districts while they are still serving on the board.  Companies owned by school board members were receiving contracts from school boards.  This is a good law."

LaMontagne said an earlier law aimed at conflicts of interest was good enough. That law said school board members must abstain from voting on contracts that involved their own businesses.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Della Moore said staff attorneys are preparing questions for the attorney general on the law.  She said the attorney general then will be asked to give a legal opinion that will govern how the law should be put into place.

LaMontagne said she is advising school board members not to panic, but to wait and see what happens.

S.B. No. 1342


1-1 relating to training and employment of school board members.


1-3 SECTION 1. Subchapter A, Chapter 23, Education Code, is

1-4 amended by adding Section 23.20 to read as follows:

1-5 Sec. 23.20. ELIGIBILITY FOR EMPLOYMENT. A trustee of a

1-6 school district is prohibited from applying for or soliciting

1-7 employment with that school district until the trustee's current

1-8 term has expired or until the trustee has resigned and a successor

1-9 has been named to fill the vacancy created by the resignation.

1-10 SECTION 2. Subchapter A, Chapter 23, Education Code, is

1-11 amended by adding Section 23.201 to read as follows:


1-13 board of trustees of a school district may not enter into a

1-14 contract with a trustee of the district, the spouse of a trustee,

1-15 or a business entity in which a trustee or the spouse of a trustee

1-16 has a significant interest until the trustee's current term has

1-17 expired or until the trustee has resigned and a successor has been

1-18 chosen to fill the vacancy created by the resignation.

1-19 (b) In this section, the term "business entity" has the

1-20 meaning provided by Section 171.001, Local Government Code.

1-21 (c) For purposes of this section, a person has a substantial

1-22 interest in a business entity if the person has a substantial

1-23 interest in the business entity for purposes of Chapter 171, Local

2-1 Government Code.

2-2 (d) This section prevails over Chapter 171, Local Government

2-3 Code, to the extent of any conflict.

2-4 SECTION 3. Subsection (a), Section 23.33, Education Code, is

2-5 amended to read as follows:

2-6 (a) The State Board of Education shall adopt <appoint an

2-7 advisory committee to develop> statewide standards for <on> the

2-8 duties of a school board member as criteria to be used to develop

2-9 board member training. <The committee shall consist of at least 15

2-10 persons knowledgeable in the management of the public schools of

2-11 the state, and no less than five members of the committee shall

2-12 consist of individuals currently serving as locally elected school

2-13 board members.>

2-14 SECTION 4. The importance of this legislation and the

2-15 crowded condition of the calendars in both houses create an

2-16 emergency and an imperative public necessity that the

2-17 constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three several

2-18 days in each house be suspended, and this rule is hereby suspended,

2-19 and that this Act take effect and be in force from and after its

2-20 passage, and it is so enacted.


Please see commentary in #3.