The Fort Worth, Texas government school district banned a student’s parent from the premises of Maudrie Miller Walton Elementary School in February, after the parent discussed concerns related to the district’s spending with administrators.
Randy Gamel, a former vice president of the Fort Worth Independent School District’s (FWISD) Parent-Teacher Association, was banned after allegedly speaking to government school district officials in “threatening tones,” stated a memorandum written by Nikita Brewer, a FWISD elementary school principal.
According to media reports, Gamel was upset about the government school district’s spending priorities, citing hanging electrical wiring, stained carpets in classrooms, and filthy bathrooms as problems that have gone unaddressed. A May 2015 audit of the school district cited Maudrie Miller Walton Elementary School for losing track of funds and poor financial controls.
In 2007, FWISD government school district administrators spent approximately $7.6 million on new software and equipment for use in the district’s offices and classrooms. Between 2007 and 2009, errors caused by the new computer systems cost FWISD about $1.6 million in fines and legal fees, and a 2014 internal audit of FWISD’s purchase determined about $2.7 million in “unnecessary” equipment and software purchases.
Michael Barba, an education policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, says Texas parents should ask why the Fort Worth government school district is failing.
“When Texans hear stories like this, our immediate reaction should be to ask, ‘Isn’t there a better way?'” Barba said. “Aren’t there things we can do to ensure that educational funds directly benefit our children? The wasted money could have paid the annual salaries of over 50 FWISD teachers.”
‘Parents Must Be Empowered’
Barba says parents deserve more control over their children’s education.
“Parents must be empowered to control where the money goes,” Barba said. “The waste of $2.7 million is an example of tragic inefficiency. The funds were sent to a company which provided no benefit to Texas kids.”
Michi Iljazi, a policy manager for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, says he’s disappointed in Fort Worth government school officials’ failure to handle taxpayers’ money properly.
“My first thoughts are of disappointment for the children in that school,” Iljazi said. “That’s nearly $10 million dollars that could have gone to anything other than a failed computer software system that was discovered to be an abject failure after seven years.”
Deserve ‘Better Results’
Iljazi says taxpayers have the right to oversee government school spending.
“Time and again our institutions are failing in their mission,” Iljazi said. “In many cases, public money is being wasted. Taxpayers deserve better results for their investment. I think better oversight is paramount to helping identify and solve these problems before they become outlandish examples, like the one we’re talking about today. It took seven years to figure out this software system was a failure. That’s unacceptable.”
Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.