Months After Prime Prep Hired Former State Board of Education Member, A Lawmaker Aims to Shut the Revolving Door

Sometimes it seems like all we ever do here at Unfair Park is bitch about the dastardly and frivolous legislation our elected representatives concoct down at the capitol. But not every bill sends us lunging for the bottle. Take this measure, filed by Sen. Bob Deuell of Greenville, barring State Board of Education members from bouncing to charter schools for two years after they leave their posts.

We're for any bill that slows the revolving door between elected officialdom and influence peddling in former milieus.

But why now? In its dry legislatese, the bill obviously doesn't say. But Charlie Garza of El Paso was recruited to be the principal at Prime Prep Academy's Dallas campus a few months after he was unseated at the State Board of Education. Its founder D.L. Wallace, said Garza had "always been a supporter of our vision."

In a press release, NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, Prime Prep's famous face, said "(m)ost people only talk about athletics at the Dallas campus and never academics and that's unfortunate. Now with a Texas State Board of Education member on our team people can no longer ignore our commitment to education. Although we have shown it with great teachers and great technology we are putting the icing on the cake with Charlie Garza."

It isn't completely accurate to say folks have ignored academics at Prime Prep. In fact, they've been at the center of the debate surrounding the charter school, not least because the grand vision articulated by its founders was discovered to be long on hyperbole and short on actual execution. According to a November WFAA report, its curriculum relied in large measure on a service run by a Florida company called VSchoolz. Generally, the education service is only used for "supplemental education." And as Leslie Minora reported last May, founder Wallacestood to reap a considerable windfall from the school..

SBOE member Mavis Knight told Brett Shipp she was "horrified" by the stories coming out of Prime Prep only months after the board rubber-stamped an apparently typo-ridden application for its charter-school license.

Deuell's bill won't have any effect on Garza's hire, of course, but we reached out to the senator's office and asked whether it might at least have inspired it. We'll update when we hear back.

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Brantley Hargrove