Accountability Charter Schools

Beto O’Rourke’s Wife Works for an Organization that Brings Charter Schools to El Paso

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I was an enthusiastic supporter of Beto O’Rourke when he ran against Ted Cruz. I regularly sent him checks of $50, $100. I would have loved to see Beto beat Cruz. I heard that Beto’s wife Amy was connected to the charter school movement but decided that was less important than beating Cruz.

Now that Beto is running for President, it matters more. I don’t want another Democratic President pushing privatization of public schools and public money.

i won’t support any candidate who supports charters and/or vouchers. I also feel that he, like some other candidates, lacks the experience to be president.

Beto’s wife, Amy O’Rourke, is part of CREEED, an economic development agency that recruits charters to El Paso as part of an economic development plan (gentrification).

Amy runs the “Choose to Excel” Program, which recruits IDEA and Harmony charters to El Paso. Harmony is part of the Gulen Turkish network. IDEA bolsters its graduation rates by not allowing students to graduate until they have been accepted into a four-year college.

The Hunt Family Foundation gave $12 million to CREEED specifically to recruit more charters to El Paso. The local public school teachers were not happy. 

“Norma De La Rosa, president of the El Paso Teachers Association, said the donation is a slap in the face to public schools and teachers.

“It’s very disheartening that we have a group of prominent businessmen in El Paso who feel it’s more important to provide that amount of money to bring in charter schools rather than providing it to the public schools to help better improve the resources and what we provide to all of our children in El Paso,” De La Rosa said.

“De La Rosa added that charter schools don’t work as closely with special needs and limited English-speaking students.

“Public school is here to provide that education, that support, and prepare our students for the future,” De La Rosa said. “Charter schools do not have the interest of all students at heart.”

“However, Woody Hunt, chairman of the Hunt Family Foundation and vice chairman of CREEED’s board of directors, said he hopes the donation will show large charter school backers, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that the education community in El Paso is committed to school choice.

“This is a journey, and I think the reason for us to go public at this time is the opportunity we have with some external funders that are potential investors, and we wanted to send the message that the local community is financially supportive of the endeavor,” Hunt said. “

The Washington Post said that Beto and Amy had worked closely with local Republican businessmen on economic development, which some saw as gentrification.

“Before Beto O’Rourke became the darling of liberal online donors, his top financial backers hailed from a different set entirely — wealthy businessmen who have sought political influence by collectively donating millions of dollars to Republicans.

“Several of El Paso’s richest business moguls donated to and raised money for O’Rourke’ s city council campaigns, drawn to his support for a plan to redevelop El Paso’s poorer neighborhoods. Some later backed a super PAC that would play a key role in helping him defeat an incumbent Democratic congressman.

“For his part, O’Rourke worked on issues that had the potential to make money for some of his benefactors. His support as a council member for the redevelopment plan, which sparked controversy at the time because it involved relocating low-income residents, many of them Hispanic, coincided with property investments by some  of his benefactors.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-32/html/container.htmlAs a congressman he supported a $2 billion military funding increase that benefited a company controlled by another major donor. That donor, real estate developer Woody Hunt, was friends with O’Rourke’s late father. Hunt also co-founded and funds an El Paso nonprofit organization that has employed O’Rourke’s wife since 2016.

“We shared a common goal,” said Ted Houghton, a local financial adviser and longtime O’Rourke donor who raised money for former Texas governor Rick Perry, a Republican, and helped steer millions in state transportation funding to the city. “The common goal was we needed to move El Paso in a different direction.”…

”In contrast to the aspirational image he has fostered in recent years, however, O’Rourke’s political career traced a more traditional path for a Texas politician — winning support from a typically pro-GOP business establishment interested in swaying public policy. Born into one politically potent family and married into another, he benefited repeatedly from his relationships with El Paso’s most powerful residents, including several nationally known Republican moneymen….

“Once O’Rourke got to Congress, he made cleaning up corruption in government a priority. He stopped taking money from political action committees after his first term, promised to support term limits for members of Congress, and sponsored bills to provide partial public financing for campaigns and limit donations to national party committees.

“At the same time, O’Rourke continued to receive large amounts of money from employees of companies run by major donors. Employees of one of his father-in-law’s former companies, Strategic Growth Bank, including Sanders himself, gave $57,400 during O’Rourke’s 2014 and 2016 House campaigns. Employees of El Paso-based Western Refining, including its chairman, Foster, gave $10,600 in 2014.

“Hunt Companies’ employees, including Hunt, gave $60,300 to O’Rourke in the 2014 and 2016 cycles, more than the employees of any other business, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“O’Rourke worked in Congress to promote a military funding issue that directly affected Hunt’s business. Hunt Companies boasts of being the nation’s largest builder and manager of privatized military housing in the country. In 2015, the Obama administration persuaded Congress to cut troop stipends for those units.

“Until then, troops who lived in the privatized units on bases would receive a monthly stipend equal to their projected rent. But when the cuts became law in 2014, the stipend was to be gradually reduced. As a result, providers of base housing were faced with either reducing their rents and losing revenue or risking the loss of tenants by asking soldiers to pay out of pocket.

“In response, Hunt Companies’ lobbyists billed $380,000 in 2017 and 2018 for work that included contact with Congress on military housing and defense appropriations issues. During this period, O’Rourke’s office listed restoring the money for privatized housing as the 13th of 15 priorities in an internal database shared with Republican leaders, according to a person familiar with the work of O’Rourke’s congressional office.

“With the support of Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee, who had opposed the initial housing stipend cuts, the defense spending bill that passed in 2018 included an increase in funding for privatized housing that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost taxpayers an additional $2 billion between 2019 and 2023. O’Rourke voted for the bill, which President Trump signed.

“O’Rourke’s spokesman said Hunt played no role in O’Rourke’s support for the measure.”

Forbes took up the question of whether Amy Sanders O’Rourke is a billionaire heiress. It disputed that characterization and concluded that her father was worth “only” $500 million. 

Whatever her father is worth is irrelevant.

What bothers me is that she is deeply tied to the charter ideology, with charters used as a tool to transform the economy while drawing funds from the local public schools.

The Intercept wrote here about Beto’s charter school problem. Frankly, I hope that every Democratic candidate realizes that charter schools are an albatross and that real Democrats support public schools. Charter schools are part of the Republican ideology of consumer choice andthe superiority of free markets. Charter schools and vouchers are points on the same spectrum.

That’s why I won’t support Beto in the primaries.

If he is the candidate, I will support him against Trump.

 

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