George Scott Reports (GSR) began original regular publication four years ago. Initially, it primarily focused on issues involving public education with a particular focus on the Texas Education Agency and the Katy I.S.D.
As a very locally-focused website, the readership was focused among residents who had children attending Katy I.S.D.
In late July, 2012, GSR made a major transition to becoming the primary communication tool for owner George Scott’s new consulting business GHS Public Policy Consultants.
With this major change, the focus of GSR dramatically expanded to include property tax issues of both local and statewide importance. Further, GSR became a tool used by Scott to address issues of importance to both his business clients and the readers who have come to understand and appreciate Scott’s uncompromising approach to evaluating public policy issues.
Now, while education and property tax issues remain the leading issues addressed at GSR, the agenda is growing consistently to include other issues.
Regardless of the issues involved, there is a common denominator that describes GSR’s approach: relentless.
“Government at every level has assumed greater power over our lives in so many ways,” Scott says. “More and more people are becoming increasingly aware that rank and file citizens are often treated dramatically different than those of increasing wealth and political power.”
“I am definitely one with a traditional conservative philosophy. However, the political party that has historically served those of us with that political viewpoint has too often compromised its values to the point that it has become a party that is far too willing to support corporate welfare as a goal of government,” Scott said.
“I am definitely not a liberal in the classic sense that describes the current Democrat Party but it is fair to say that my views have become decidedly more populist over the last decade,” Scott said.
Scott says that move towards a classic populism is what drives his approach to public policy whether it involves dramatic disparity in how average and powerful property owners are treated in the property tax system or whether it is reflected in the fact that at-risk minority children are suffering greatly as a result of the current accountability system in public education.
In accepting consulting clients, Scott has said that he does not have to agree with everything a client does, says, or thinks. However, he says, “I must passionately believe in those issues for which I accept a responsibility to help them better tell and communicate their story.”
Scott has a long background in journalism and public policy research.
He is a veteran public policy researcher whose professional career includes stints as a community-based journalist, newspaper owner, chamber of commerce president and political media-relations consultant.
He served for some 15 years as a senior researcher, and then president of a Harris County Texas based public policy research organization during which he analyzed budgets and policy initiatives of the City of Houston, Harris County, Houston I.S.D., other school districts in Harris County, Houston Community College, and the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority.
While serving as president of the organization, Scott was appointed to serve on the Board of Managers of the Harris County Hospital District, one of the largest public health hospitals in the United States. Scott’s service on the Board came after five tumultuous years of political discord and financial deterioration of the District.
Scott’s financial analysis and assessment of the issues convinced him that the Harris County Commissioners Court was primarily responsible for the financial crisis that had been created, an assessment which disappointed and frustrated the Harris County Judge who appointed him to the Board.
As a Board member, Scott helped lead a 16-month effort to restore financial stability to the Hospital District. He produced detailed position papers, openly challenged the County budget officer’s rosier assessments of the situation, and appeared before a high-level committee including the organization’s leader of the Greater Houston Partnership to warn it of the dire consequences that were about to happen.
“I told them the truth. I told them that Houston was about to open a downtown baseball stadium where all the important politicians and corporate leaders would gather to congratulate themselves on their vision of downtown revitalization,” Scott said. “And at almost the exact same time, the Hospital District would be voting to impose draconian, massive cuts in public healthcare and they should anticipate a justified level of racial strife unparalleled in the history of Houston.”
It was a bruising political battle that was highly publicized. In the end, the Commissioners Court relented and restored financial security to the District.
With this mission accomplished, Scott, who it is clear would have either been fired or not reappointed to the Board by the Commissioners Court, resigned his volunteer position having achieved the results he believed were essential to the public and political health of Houston and Harris County.
However, it was during his work at the research organization that Scott became particularly interested in Texas public education accountability.
In what was viewed at the time as an ‘odd-couple’ pairing, Scott teamed with the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers to come to the aid of a beleaguered inner-city African American principal in Houston I.S.D. to protect his work at Wesley Elementary School.
Scott and HFT president Gayle Fallon responded forcefully to defend principal Thaddeus Lott’s campus administration and teachers from wrongful allegations by the Houston I.S.D. administrators that high student performance among the school’s at-risk population was due to cheating.
The Houston Chronicle detailed an April 1991 administrative raid on the campus in a story in which Fallon and Scott were featured defending Lott. It was publicity from this article that attracted the attention of the ABC Prime Time Live news show.
The executive producer of the show was struck by the fact that the president of a group financed by major corporations, and the president of a teachers’ organization could work so closely and effectively together on behalf of an inner city, minority principal at a campus that had over 95% at-risk students.
The end result of this effort was a major feature story on Prime Time Live. Lott and his staff were totally exonerated. The Houston I.S.D. superintendent “moved on” as the saying goes. Lott was allowed to create one of the first public charter schools in Houston I.S.D. in Acres Homes in Houston.
Scott said he learned three important lessons from that situation over 17 years ago.
“The first is that knee-jerk conservative mantras attacking those who represent classroom teachers in their organizations are counterproductive. The second is that public school administrators are capable of imposing unspeakable injustice and burden upon campus and classroom educators in the trenches of public education. The third is that school boards often degenerate into cheerleading squads for high-level administrators. These boards are often devoid of proactive leadership, and are responsive to administrative accountability in a genuine sense only when crisis erupts,” Scott said.
This entire situation at Wesley Elementary School should have and could have been handled at the school board level. Yet, it took the president of a business group and the president of a teachers’ union to proactively create a political environment where the outstanding work of this inner city principal would not be destroyed, he said.
“My work at Wesley Elementary School was a life-changing experience. Public education accountability became my primary research interest,” Scott said.
“I was a strong advocate of the accountability testing program in the early days of TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills). The philosophical premises were right and I believed the initial round of data produced by the Texas Education Agency,” Scott said.
Because Scott was recognized as a strong supporter of the accountability movement and was a routine source to both local and national news media on the subject, TEA Education Commissioner Mike Moses appointed Scott to his Accountability Advisory Committee.
Scott served on that committee with two future Secretaries of Education – Dr. Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings (currently holds the post). Another member of that panel was Sandy Kress, a primary author of the No Child Left Behind national legislation patterned after the Texas system.
Armed with easier access to ‘important’ people and given new insight into raw data, Scott became an outspoken opponent of the State’s accountability system.
By 1998, his organization had published two reports on the system, thereby becoming the first organization in the United States (news or otherwise) to begin offering an empirical based analysis of TEA data.
When Commissioner Moses balked at providing additional data to Scott, he resigned from accountability position. He subsequently became one of the fiercest critics of the so-called ‘Texas Educational Miracle’.
He is noted for his custom-ordered public information requests that generate data in formats that are much more amenable to genuine performance analysis.
The National Academy of Sciences invited Scott to participate in a conference in Irvine, California in 1999 where educators from Texas and Kentucky gathered to praise their accomplishments.
It was at this meeting that the Rand Corporation’s senior education researcher Dr. Stephen Klein presented informal findings to the group that questioned the academic integrity of Texas’ assertions of great academic progress by at-risk minority students in Texas based upon TAAS.
While certainly not an outgrowth of Scott’s earlier reports, the Rand Corporation’s informal findings presented at that California conference validated Scott’s concerns from a year earlier.
Outraged by Dr. Klein’s statement at the conference and challenging its conclusion, Texas officials lobbied for the Rand Corporation to pursue a more rigorous study. The organization did. A year later, the national organization issued a formal report concluding that Texas’ assertions of dramatic academic progress in the era of the Texas Educational Miracle could not be validated by independent comparative analysis.
Later, Scott provided the New York Times with raw data he had obtained in an open records request from the Houston I.S.D. The Times spent two months or more independently evaluating the raw data. Subsequently, it produced a major news story further questioning the integrity of Texas’ claims.
While no longer funded by an organization, Scott has maintained his research efforts. The primary foundation of that effort has been to obtain custom-ordered raw data on student academic performance.
Here’s a summary look at Scott’s professional background.
Experience in Government: 2007-2012
Researcher and media specialist at Harris County Appraisal District
Public Policy Research & Analysis: 1986-2002 – Senior Researcher & President*
The TRA was a nonprofit public policy research organization funded by both Fortune 500 and other major corporations in Harris County for the express purpose of evaluating financial and operational programs of local government. These local governments included but were not limited to the following:
- Harris County government and its related entities such as the Hospital District, the Flood Control District, and the Sheriff’s Office
- City of Houston
- Harris County Appraisal District
- Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority
- Houston Independent School District
- Houston Community College
The TRA was not a lobbying organization. Rather, it was a pure research group that produced findings and public policy suggestions on a wide range of issues involved in the governance of the above governments.
Journalism: 1973-1980 & 1983-2007
- News Editor of the daily Herald-Coaster newspaper in Rosenberg, Texas: 1973-1979
- Assistant Publisher and Managing Editor of The Alvin Sun newspaper: 1979-1980
- Co-Owner of the Katy News newspaper 1989-2007
Chamber of Commerce: 1980-1981
- President of the Alvin-Manvel Chamber of Commerce
Political & Political Media Relations:
- District staff of U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay (*1-year leave from TRA): 1987
- Researcher and writer for the political media relations firm of Robert S. Heller, Inc.: 1981-1982
Related Public Service: 1998-2000
Member of the Board of Managers of the Harris County Hospital District (17 months actual service)