Texas House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock announced on Friday that his daughter — an education lobbyist — would step down amid persistent questions from conservative activists over a possible conflict of interest.
Aycock’s daugther, Michelle Smith, worked for various education groups as a lobbyist for HillCo Partners and also served as executive director of the Fast Growth School Coalition.
“Her employment predates my service as chair of the House Public Education Committee. We have both filed the required disclosure forms, and I announced that I would recuse myself on issues related to her clients,” Aycock, R-Killeen, said in a statement Friday. “Despite these measures, the comments have persisted.”
Last week during a question-and-answer session following an interview with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, an audience member asked Aycock how he would handle the relationship during this year’s legislative session, which began Jan. 13. (House Speaker Joe Straus has not yet announced committee assignments for the 140-day session, but Aycock is expected to be re-appointed to his current position).
“I find it ironic that anti-education forces felt it necessary to critique a former teacher with a PhD in education improvement from Texas State University in order to apply pressure to me,” Aycock said Friday, referring to Smith. “It is especially ironic since most of the comments seem to emanate from a small group centered largely around Michael Quinn Sullivan, whose own efforts to avoid lobbyist registration have become legendary.”
Sullivan is an influential conservative activist whose group Empower Texans has criticized Aycock for his position on private school vouchers. Last year, the Texas Ethics Commission fined Sullivan $10,000 after finding that he violated state law by failing to register as a lobbyist. He is fighting the fine in court.
“In the hope that this distraction is now behind, I look forward to passionately working to improve the education of our 5.2 million Texas school children,” Aycock said.