The Richardson ISD is asking voters to approve a tax increase. I am voting YES for many reasons that I've been spelling out in previous blog posts. This post is not going to add to the reasons to "Vote YES." Instead, this post takes a look at the organized "Vote NO" side, specifically its political action committee (PAC) treasurer, Chris McNutt, and the company he keeps.
Chris McNutt was the Deputy District Director for State Senator Don Huffines, the man who represents a good part of RISD. Huffines doesn't always demonstrate good listening skills when meeting with his young constituents, namely RISD students asking him to support public schools. According to a 2017 story in The Dallas Morning News, "Sen. Don Huffines is passionate about giving public school students the choice to attend private schools. But he's raising eyebrows because of the combative tone he used Monday in Austin during a discussion about education at Texas PTA Rally Day with a group of students from Richardson ISD." "Raising eyebrows" is the newspaper's polite way of putting it.
A student objected that Huffines's voucher scheme would use tax dollars to help affluent families reduce the cost of sending their children to expensive private schools in North Texas but wouldn't be enough to allow poor children to attend those same schools. Huffines's response to this polite child's fair point? "Do you want me to give them $15,000 so they can go to Hockaday or St. Mark's? That's the most selfish thing I've ever heard."
That's the politician McNutt chose to work for, one well known for pushing voucher schemes to help fund private schools. McNutt also ran a political consulting firm that he says helped elect State Representatives Matt Rinaldi and Jonathan Stickland.
Matt Rinaldi's biggest financial support comes from supporters of private school vouchers. Rinaldi's Republican predecessor endorses Rinaldi's opponent in the November election, saying, "Representative Rinaldi voted 10 times against legislation to reform our school finance system, legislation that would have helped public schools and provided local tax relief."
Jonathan Stickland is also a supporter of using tax dollars on voucher schemes for private schools and charter schools that unlike public schools don't have elected boards of trustees. Rinaldi and Stickland are the politicians that McNutt, as a campaign consultant, helped elect. Is it surprising that McNutt is now trying to defeat a tax ratification election that would increase funding for public schools in RISD?
McNutt. Huffines. Rinaldi. Stickland. You don't have to be Glenn Beck to connect the dots in this story. McNutt worked for the other three, either on staff or as a campaign consultant. Now he's working for the PAC that is distributing those "Vote NO" yard signs around the Richardson ISD. Here's another dot. Where did the money come from that funds the PAC that wants you to "Vote NO"? According to a 10/07/2018 campaign finance report, 44% of the money being spent by the PAC comes from a single person: a retired CEO in Plano (i.e., not even from the RISD) who has given tens of thousands of dollars to far right causes around the state. Causes that are consistent with the beliefs espoused by McNutt, Huffines, Rinaldi, and Stickland.
None of this is to say there aren't sincere people who are thinking of voting NO. There are. I'm not criticizing them or their sincerity in voting NO. I am predicting what will happen if the "Vote NO" side prevails. Expect the leaders to be emboldened in their pursuit of other goals to starve public schools of funding. To predict what those will be, study Chris McNutt at the local level, and Huffines, Rinaldi, and Stickland at the state level.
Support public schools, now and in the future. "Vote YES" on November 6. Early voting runs from October 22 until November 2.
P.S. If you vote a straight-party ticket, you still have to search out and vote separately for the RISD tax ratification election. Don't accidentally overlook it.