Austin – The Texas Senate unanimously passed SB 1886, by Senator Bettencourt, to give explicit statutory authority to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to formally designate an Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate and take action regarding instances of fraud, waste, and abuse by school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, regional education service centers, and other entities subject to the TEA Commissioner’s regulatory authority. The bill passed 31-0.
“The Texas Education Agency is the largest state agency that doesn’t have an Office of Inspector General to root out waste, fraud, and abuse,” said Senator Bettencourt. “Not counting higher education, nearly 28% of Texas’ budget is spent on public education. An Office of Inspector General is critical so Texans know that their tax dollars are being spent efficiently and correctly.”
Over the past few years several instances have highlighted the need for the Texas Education Agency to have an OIG with this ability. Houston ISD’s chief auditor was suspended for alleged misconduct shortly after questioning a $1.9 billion over budget bond issue, as well as trustee travel. He was later reinstated, however the Office of Management and Compliance was transferred to another office. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath testified during a Senate Education Committee hearing on SB 1886 about district procurement officials in one school district that were murdered execution style, as well as pay-to-play schemes, and violence used to steer contracts to favored vendors.
“TEA Commissioner Morath’s testimony was quite chilling, particularly when he spoke about two purchasing agents at one ISD in the Valley that were killed execution style,” continued Senator Bettencourt. “This legislation is not just about ISD’s firing their auditors and having other audit issues, but as people literally are being murdered, this is one of gravest indicators that the Texas Education Agency needs an Office of Inspector General, just like the other major agencies in Texas already have.”
Among other things, SB 1886 will:
- Establish an OIG to investigate waste, fraud, abuse, and violations of the Education code on behalf of the Commissioner.
- Provides the OIG with subpoena power for the production of documents and relevant witnesses.
- Adds county departments of education to the list of entities that OIG can investigate, including Harris County Department of
Education and Dallas County Schools.
- Allows the OIG to conduct criminal, civil, and administrative investigations and initiate reviews of school districts, open-enrollment
charter schools, regional education service centers, and other entities subject to the TEA Commissioner’s regulatory authority.
“It is beyond time to allow a TEA Office of Inspector General to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in the Texas education system,” concluded Senator Bettencourt.