FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 23, 2020
Houston, TX - Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and 9 joint-authors Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Senator Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), Senator Royce West (D- Dallas) and Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) filed SB 215 to create an office of Inspector General in the Texas Education Agency. SB 215 has bipartisan support and is identical to SB 933 from the 86th Legislative Session that passed unanimously out of the Texas Senate and is also similar to SB1886, authored by Bettencourt in the 85th session, that passed unanimously out of the Senate but did not get a vote in the House.
"An Agency that is responsible for monitoring $60 billion dollars of public money per year needs the accountability that an Office of Inspector General will bring," said Senator Bettencourt. "The Texas Education Agency is one of the few major agencies that does not already have authority for an Office of Inspector General so SB 215 will ensure that taxpayer money is not being wasted and will give the agency the ability to root out fraud and abuse." he continued.
SB 215 would enact the following key changes:
- Establishes a Texas Education Agency Office of the Inspector General to carry out investigations of fraud, waste, and abuse on behalf of the Commissioner.
- The following Texas agencies already have an Office of Inspector General: Health and Human Services, Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
- The Office of Inspector General will investigate allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse and violations of the Education Code or other law.
- The Office of Inspector General will be able to conduct criminal, civil, and administrative investigations and initiate reviews of a school district, open-enrollment charter school, regional education service center, or other local education agency as considered appropriate by the inspector general.
- The Office of Inspector General will be able to investigate county departments of education, e.g., the Harris County Department of Education.
In, at times, shocking testimony before the Senate Education Committee (during the 85th legislative session) Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath discussed several incidents which indicated the need for an Inspector General, such as pay-to-play schemes, threats of violence, and even district procurement officials being murdered execution style.
"Taxpayers deserve to know that their money is being spent properly and efficiently," concluded Senator Bettencourt. "It is very important TEA has this type of authority so the Commissioner of Education can investigate these situations."
Senator Bettencourt has filed and passed numerous education reform bills in past legislative sessions.