School bonds are big business in Texas. School districts use taxpayer dollars to hire bond consulting firms to produce slick fliers and marketing materials informing residents of upcoming elections. In order to tug at the heartstrings of stakeholders and community members, the hook for a successful campaign must be established. That usually comes in the form of shiny objects such as indoor football fields or the promise of innovation through technology devices.
Euan Blackman is an immigrant from South Africa who has served as a public school Physics teacher for the last 17 years in Dallas, Highland Park, and Richardson ISD. Prior to following his passion for education, he had a lucrative career in the private sector for 12 years with AT&T and CompUSA. His homestead is in Richardson, Texas.
Euan and I became allies during our oppositions to the 2016 Richardson ISD bond. We were concerned about the academic decline of the district while spending and bloated administration jobs continued to increase. In 2018 we joined forces to oppose a tax ratification election (TRE) which would lead to the maximum rate of $1.17. That was later rolled back by the 86th legislature to slow local property tax growth.
Euan and I were invited to speak on this subject at the True Texas Project in April
Everyone wants a piece of the education pie. Donors of school bond PACs are typically those who stand to profit off their passage, such as construction companies, architecture firms, consultants and education technology companies.
Since the recording of this episode, Richardson ISD passed a $750M bond which was pitched as a “no tax rate increase” election. They use deceptive semantics to confuse voters despite the new law requiring language on the ballot explicitly stating “THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.” While the rate may not go up, the rising property values result in increased taxes year-over-year.
Those who oppose bond elections and exorbitant property taxes are often labeled as outliers or haters of children. Euan says it’s quite the contrary. He would like to see more money spent in the classroom to benefit students and give teachers the resources to do their best. He is advocating for more transparency and accountability in district spending and more engagement from the taxpayers to follow the money.
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