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Why the budget almost didn’t pass in the special session

You may recall that just before the House passed SB1, which was a must-pass bill for the special session and whose failure would have necessitated a second special session, the House voted it down before reconsidering and passing it on a second attempt. The reason for the near-failure weren’t deeply explored at the time, but this Statesman article sheds a little light on it.

Harmony Public Schools, a high-performing charter school network that focuses on math and science, has been the target of activists concerned that its leaders are non-U.S. citizens with ties to Turkey.

Led by the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative pro-family organization, Harmony’s critics have issued a flurry of legislative alerts in recent weeks that said the state’s $25 billion endowment for “our children’s textbooks” was imperiled by “Turkish men, of whom we know very little other than most are not American citizens.”

They gathered enough momentum that earlier this week some conservative legislators cited the concerns when they voted against a key budget bill — and almost killed it.

But one conservative protector of the endowment, the Permanent School Fund, says the criticism of Harmony is unfounded.

“There is a lot of misinformation, a certain level of fear and a small helping of bigotry that needs to go away,” said State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

Bradley said he would be the “first to sound the alarm” if there were anything to be alarmed about. But the board has not received substantive complaints from parents of the 16,000 children that attend any of the 33 Harmony campuses across the state, he said.

“The only thing these guys are guilty of are high scores and being Turkish,” Bradley said.

When David Bradley is acting as a voice of reason, you can insert your own cliche about how we’ve gone around the bend, down the rabbit hole, and through the looking glass. The legislators who were cowed by the Eagle Forum will get their investigation, which will likely lead to nothing of substance, not that that’s any guarantee against a subsequent flare-up. Just file this away as another reason why this was the worst Legislature we’ve seen since the Sharpstown days.

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