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Overview of the HCDE races

The Chron has an overview of the races for the Harris County Department of Education, and in describing the one At Large race between incumbent Michael Wolfe and Democratic challenger Diane Trautman they do the useful service of describing what the HCDE does.

Diane Trautman

The department supports the county’s 26 independent school districts. It operates a co-op that allows the districts to buy food and supplies at lower prices. The department also runs adult-education programs, administers federal Head Start grants and Early Childhood Intervention programs, and supports after-school initiatives.

Most of the department’s budget comes from state and federal grants and fees for service paid by the districts.

Trautman said her opponent wants to abolish the department and has been censured by the board for unethical behavior.

Wolfe acknowledged that he would support abolishing the department, saying that he believes taxpayers pay twice for education. The 2008 censure, he said, was in retaliation because he was pushing for lower taxes.

In 2009, the board tried to remove him from office because they said he had a disregard for the department and its procedures and disrespect for the board.

Here’s what was said about Wolfe at the time:

Fellow trustee Jim Henley said the movement to oust Wolfe is based on his numerous absences and Wolfe’s “lack of acting in the best interests of the department.”

The board considered removing Wolfe for incompetence last year, but Wolfe appealed for a second chance and pledged to adhere to a list of ethical practices.

Henley said Wolfe has violated that pledge and continues to miss meetings without informing the board ahead of time of his absences — or explaining them afterward.

Board members voted 6-0 Monday night to seek Wolfe’s ouster from the $72-a-year position.

See here, here, and here for more on this. Henley is one of only two Democrats on the board right now, so that means four fellow Republicans voted to pursue ousting Wolfe. If you think they did so because they didn’t like him pushing for lower taxes, I’d say that’s pretty naive. Plus, as you may recall, it wasn’t just Wolfe’s board colleagues who didn’t like him. Read this letter from County School Superintendent John Sawyer to Wolfe from December of 2007 for a reminder of that. Wolfe is a clown, and in a just world he’ll be sent back to the private sector in a couple of weeks.

The race for Position 4, Precinct 3, between Republican Kay Smith, who successfully primaried the more moderate Raymond Garcia, and Silvia Mintz, is frustrating to me.

Silvia Mintz

In the Position 4 race, Smith, 61, a Republican, said she wants to bring more department transparency. She said it often is difficult to get information about operations and how money is spent.

“I want to know what we are doing with those tax dollars to ensure better education,” Smith said.

Mintz, her Democratic opponent, did not return calls.

On her campaign website, Mintz, 38, said she entered the race because she believes it is important to “protect the American Dream through education.”

Mintz ran for HD132 in 2010. She has a compelling personal story, and I was impressed by her when I interviewed her for tat race. She’s the kind of person I’d like to see get elected to something. But I have no idea what she’s doing in this race. She reported nothing raised and nothing spent on her 30 day finance report, after minimal activity on her July report. I made numerous attempts to reach her for an interview, but like the Chron never heard from her. Her campaign website appears to have been last updated in December, when she announced her candidacy. Her Facebook page indicates some activity, but that’s about it. She would be a distinct underdog in this race, but then so are people like Paul Sadler and Traci Jensen and Cody Pogue, all of whom have run active, highly visible campaigns. All I can say is that I’m terribly disappointed. I wish I knew what was going on with her.

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6 Comments

  1. Matthew Dexter says:

    Perhaps voting for Michael Wolfe would be a better choice. Abolishing this wasteful agency should be a priority to any poitician or informed voter who takes the time to see what an absolute joke the HCDE is. It is the last one it’s kind in Texas and most other counties that have had a similar department have gotten wise to the fact that they are a drain on precious tax revenue that the county can use elsewhere!!!!

    I will agree with Ms. Mintz that getting any information from HCDE is tough and transparency is something that the voters are entitiled to. However, too much transparency from the HCDE will certainly shed some light on why in the he*l they have such a massive budget compared to their staffing level and NO SCHOOLS!!

    HCDE is not long for this world if / whenthe general public see what a SHAM they are

  2. Michelle Michon says:

    Mr. Dexter, you really need to do your research on the HCDE. The HCDE saves our public schools millions of dollars every year at a time when they are already cash-strapped. The cost to taxpayers is the average cost of $7.66 a year for services like Head Start, Early Childhood Intervention, Safe Schools, After School Programs, Texas Virtual School Network, and many more. Again, all this for only $7.66/year. The HCDE provides these services to our schools at a lower cost than they can find them elsewhere. Now let’s imagine for a moment that there were no HCDE. Our schools would have to pass on the higher cost for these services in increased school taxes, and I can guarantee that an increase in your school tax is going to be alot more than $7.66/year. So you are really hurting taxpayers by suggesting that HCDE needs to go. Indeed, it is the best bargain our schools, our students and our taxpayers have today. Oh, and you said something about lack of financial transparency? Actually there is a link at the bottom of the home page on the HCDE website called oddly enough, “Financial Transparency” where you can access practically any type of financial information you need about the department. And the Texas State Comptroller awarded the department the gold award for Financial Transparency in 2011. Again, I would say you need to do your homework Mr. Dexter and be very glad that we have the HCDE to support our schools, our students, our community and our taxpayers.

  3. Jimmi says:

    Diane Trautman is an educator with the best interests of Harris County schoolchildren at heart. She will be an active advocate to continue essential services needed to equalize educational opportunities in our county and make your $7.50 a year investment in the Harris County Department of Education priceless.

  4. Karen Menke says:

    Mr. Dexter obviously has not studied the Board and knows nothing about what they do. The Board saves School Districts money by buying in bulk, They provide programs like Head Start, Early Childhood Intervention, After School Programs, Teacher Training, Principal Certification, and Buying Cooperatives to name just a few. Diane Trautman with her backgound in education is a natural choice for this position.

  5. Ross says:

    There’s no reason the area school districts couldn’t do the same thing for less money. It’s time for HCDE to go away. Move the workers to another agency and get rid of the bloated administration if necessary.

  6. […] primary, will easily complete the single easiest pickup opportunity that 2012 has to offer. As I said before, Silvia Mintz is the kind of person I want to see get elected to something. I’m just glad she […]

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