A former chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, Michael Williams, will be the new Texas Commissioner of Education, Governor Rick Perry announced today. Williams will assume the post September 1. He will become the first African-American to lead the Texas Education Agency.
Williams recently led an unsuccessful attempt to win the Republican nomination for the newly redrawn Congressional District 25, which is currently held by U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin). Doggett is seeking reelection in another redrawn seat, Congressional District 35.
The Texas Association of Business is applauding Perry's pick of a "rock solid conservative."
"We look forward to working with him to maintain and improve Texas’ world class accountability system,” TAB president and CEO Bill Hammond said in a news release.
Similarly, the James Golsan with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation says Williams' "proven track record of public service, his support for educational choice, and his commitment to looking out for the interests of taxpayers makes him well qualified for promoting positive change in public education."
But some teachers groups may be less enthusiastic about the pick.
"We're not real happy about this," says Ken Zarifis, head of the local teachers' association Education Austin. He believes Williams is eager to promote school voucher programs, which would allow parents to receive public money to help pay for tuition at private schools. "Vouchers are just another way to continue to whittle away at public education as we know it."