Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kay Smith's Record at HCDE

Kay Smith, a former Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) Trustee, is now running in the Republican Primary for the Texas Legislature - HD 130.

I am a citizen watchdog over HCDE so I have been receiving numerous requests for a summary of her HCDE voting record.

I don’t live in HD130 and I have never met her opponent. I don’t have a dog in this fight. But I am a conservative who believes the voters in HD130 deserve the facts so they can decide which candidate best represents their values.

Note: For those who are not familiar with HCDE, you need to understand that Harris County School Trustees are the ONLY school board in the State of Texas elected by political party. They are a leftover entity from a past era in Texas education when counties ran the public schools. Every other county in Texas (except Dallas) closed their county board of education when all students moved into our current Independent School District (ISD) system. HCDE collects about $21 million in property taxes every year, over and above what is collected in ISD taxes. There has been a growing effort by conservatives in the past few years to close HCDE.

The top five points I think conservative voters in HD130 need to know about Kay Smith’s record at HCDE:

#1. Smith’s Votes Changed from Conservative to Liberal

For the first two years on the HCDE Board, the majority of Smith’s votes were conservative. Many times she was the LONE conservative vote. She often argued eloquently in support of the conservative viewpoint in board discussions.

But in 2015 - she began to vote with the liberals on many key issues such as:

Obama’s expansion of Federal Pre-K – Children from Birth to 3 years old 

In 2013, Smith stood alone on the HCDE board AGAINST Obama’s pre-K expansion to include children from birth to 3 when liberals tried to fund the program under the name “Early to Rise.”

And Smith stood alone AGAINST it again in 2014 when liberals tried to fund it under the name “Preschool Preparedness Initiative Program.”

But Smith completely reversed her conservative
stand in 2015 and voted with the liberals FOR Obama’s “birth to 3” pre-k expansion under the name “Early Head Start.”

And even worse, because two new conservatives had joined her on the board in 2015…had she voted “NO” that day, the vote would have been tied 3-3, and the agenda item would NOT have passed.

Watch the discussion and vote below.

During the discussion, Smith seemed swayed by fellow board member Erica Lee Carter (daughter of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee) who told Smith that Gov. Abbott supported the Federal Head Start expansion to include children from birth. After that, Smith went so far as to say, “...I think it is wonderful. Anything we can do for our children..." 

But Gov. Abbott’s pre-k plan is not from birth, it is for 4 year olds. It is not a Federal program, it is State based. And he is critical of Head Start. A quote from Gov. Abbott’s Texas Pre-k Plan reads:
Recommendation: Given the established deficiencies in the Head Start program, develop a strategic plan to encourage parents of eligible four-year-old children to enroll their children in state-based prekindergarten programs, rather than Head Start.”

And, the federal grant application Smith approved was to serve 100 children for a 1 YEAR period at a price of $27,687.05 PER CHILD - an amount the conservative Smith would have sternly challenged 2 years earlier.

Taxpayer funded lobbyists “political consultants”

During her first two years at HCDE, Smith voted AGAINST HCDE hiring lobbyists and/or political consultants to fight against the Legislature working to close HCDE. 

But in 2015, Smith argued against HCDE's need to renew Pat Strong's contract, before surrendering her conservative stand and voting with the liberals FOR renewing Pat Strong’s contract ...for up to 5 years ... at a cost to Harris County taxpayers of $80,000+ per year.

View the full board discussion which convinced Smith to surrender below:

Who is Pat Strong? A super liberal lobbyist “political consultant” who works for Democrat campaigns such as County Attorney Vince Ryan and Mayor Sylvester Turner. An example of her work at HCDE in 2014:

A conference call between the Wendy Davis Campaign and HCDE administrators, board members and “consultants.”

Manipulation of Government Contracting

In 2013, Smith questioned the HCDE administration over its manipulation of government contracting in order to run the statewide Central Operations of the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN.) She was the LONE vote AGAINST continuing the contract. 

 Watch the 2013 board discussion and vote here.

But, by 2015, Smith surrendered her conservative stand and voted with the liberals FOR a two year extension of the same contract, as the two new conservative board members voted AGAINST.

21st Century Community Learning Centers

21st Century Community Learning Centers is a federal grant program issued through the states, designed to substitute school for family and church as the center of children’s lives.

In 2013, Smith was the LONE conservative vote AGAINST funds for HCDE’s 21st Century Learning Centers division called CASE.

But by 2014, Smith caved and voted with the liberals FOR funding CASE - HCDE’s 21st Century Learning Centers division.

Head Start

In 2013, Smith was the LONE conservative vote AGAINST HCDE continuing as a service provider for the Federal Head Start program.

By 2015, Smith was voting with the liberals FOR HCDE to expand their Federal Head Start program.

Note: These are just a few examples of Smith's HCDE voting record. You can read the entire HCDE board meeting minutes here

#2. Smith Stayed Silent

During her first two years at HCDE, Smith often spoke out on issues of concern to conservatives. But there were also many times when she remained silent. For example:

Family Planning Services provided through schools

Smith remained silent when HCDE’s Administration informed the Board that medical services, including “family planning,” would be provided through their ten Head Start schools.

Funneling grant funds to liberal organizations

Smith remained silent when HCDE’s Administration informed the Board of the funds HCDE was providing to organizations which actively push the liberal agenda such as...

Texans Together Education Fund, better known to conservatives as, ACORN.

And a Syrian Refugee service provider with ties to CAIR.

Choice of Attorney

Smith has remained silent about HCDE’s selection of their board attorney, Sarah Weber Langlois, whose claim to fame in her bio is her comment published in the Loyola Law Review in 2005 entitled:


Christmas and Easter not named on HCDE work/holiday calendar

In 2015, Smith did NOT stand with the two new conservatives to support naming holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, on the HCDE work/holiday calendar. 

Instead she refrained from debate and ABSTAINED from the vote.

Watch the video of the discussion and vote here

Below is the HCDE work calendar WITHOUT holidays named and the Humble ISD calendar WITH school holidays named.

#3. Smith a NO SHOW

Smith promised many of us in her campaign for HCDE in 2012 that she would work with the Legislature to shut HCDE down. But while she was a Trustee, the Texas Legislative held three hearings on HCDE. 

Smith was a NO SHOW at ALL THREE.

  1. HB 945 -  Hearing held 4/16/2013
  2. Interim Study - Hearing held 10/16/2014
  3. SB 1216 - Hearing held 4/28/2015

#4. Accepted favors from HCDE’s Administration at taxpayers’ expense. 

In the summer of 2014, Smith started a 501(c)(3) called Hero and Friend.   
(Note: SOS filing under Smith Street Corp)

The Board of Advisors includes:
HCDE Board President, Angie Chesnut
and the wife of HCDE Board Member
Marvin Morris

On 9/9/14, Hero and Friend filed a Conflict of Interest Questionnaire in order to do business with HCDE.

Hero and Friend hosted a program at HCDE’s Conference Center paid for by the taxpayers

On 1/16/15 Hero and Friend hosted a program at the HCDE Conference Center.

HCDE could not produce any records showing any written agreement or payments made by Smith for use of the space.

But HCDE did produce records showing how the taxpayers funded the event:

Security officer paid for 5 hours;
billed to the taxpayers as:

  “after-hours HCDE Board Meeting

Two Custodians, each earning 8.15 overtime hours, paid by the taxpayers; both listing the overtime purpose as:

                           “Kay Smith” 

View all documents here

6.15 overtime hours for Maintenance paid for by the taxpayers; “for Kay S” scratched out as the overtime purpose.

View all documents here.

Technology helpdesk analyst overtime paid for by the taxpayers; no purpose given.

View all documents here.

    Taxpayers paid Smith’s Grant Writing Registration Fees

    Records show HCDE’s Superintendent used his HCDE credit card to pay Kay Smith’s registration fee for a seminar held by the Center for Grants Development on 4/22/15. The topic was how to create a grants acquisition program.

    Records show her registration was billed to the taxpayers under the budget codes for “Superintendents Office – Workshop registration and fees.”

    Had Smith paid as a private citizen the cost would have been $45.00. The Superintendent paid the reduced rate of $25 for Smith’s registration because Smith was listed as an “HCDE Employee.”  View all documents here

    I requested documents showing Smith
    had reimbursed HCDE,
    but HCDE did not have any such documents.

    #5. Resignation

    Smith was elected to a 6 year term on HCDE’s board in 2012 and took office 1/2013.

    She resigned 11/30/15, 3 years before her term expired.

    In her statement to the Board, she states the reason for her resignation is the amount of time her run for the Legislature is taking. Quote:

    “…because there are certain people who have worked very hard to see that I don’t get elected…those detractors, on a daily basis, seem to make some sort of effort through either half-truths, innuendos, or out-and-out-lies…I have been combating all of these…”
    View her entire statement below:

    Questions for the voters of HD 130 :
    1. If Smith abandoned her conservative position to vote with the liberals on key issues at HCDE, will she do the same in the Legislature?
    2. If Smith stayed silent on issues at HCDE, will she stay silent in Austin?
    3. If Smith did not show up for ANY of the three Legislative hearings on HCDE, will she show up to fight for your important issues?
    4. If Smith accepted favors from HCDE administrators at taxpayers’ expense, will she accept favors from lobbyists?
    5. If Smith doesn’t have time to attend one meeting per month at HCDE now because she is campaigning for the Legislature, will she have time to fulfill her duties as a State Rep and campaign for re-election? 
    6. If Smith is so upset by “detractors” in a campaign for the Legislature, will she be able to handle the CONSTANT bombardment of statewide critics of her every vote and her every statement as a Legislator?

    Colleen Vera


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