Editor’s Note: The Interview took place on 12/21/23 via Zoom. Below is a transcription of the interview, which has been lightly edited for clarity. Cheryl Bean is a Republican Candidate for Texas House District 97, currently represented by Craig Goldman. Goldman, who was first elected in 2012, is running to replace retiring Congresswoman Kay Granger in Texas Congressional District 12. Bean is an engineer and the owner and CEO of B Smart Builders. She is also on the board of the Texas Center for Arts + Academics, which governs two public charter schools. Bean will face off against Leslie Robnett and John McQueeney in the Republican Primary, which will be held on March 5, 2024. Bean’s website can be found at texas97th.com.
Garrit: Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC), and [Texas GOP Chairman] Matt Rinaldi, have all called on Speaker Dade Phelan to resign. Phelan has also exchanged criticism to Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton. What do you think of all the infighting that’s going on between all these different states officials in the party?
Cheryl: It’s funny you should ask that because every person I’ve talked to down in Austin, that’s their first question. If you want my honest opinion about it, those of us who don’t live in Austin think that whether you agreed with an impeachment call, vote, trial, a verdict or not, the fact is, it’s done. And the right answer is to move on and get back to governing. That’s honestly how I feel about it.
Garrit: Dade Phelan has received a lot of criticism, and his critics have stated that he’s hindered conservative legislation by empowering Democrats to be chairs of committees, and, of course, the impeachment of Paxton. And supporters say that he’s governed over the most conservative sessions in history. What do you think about Speaker Phelan and the calls for him to resign, and if you were to be elected, would you support him?
Cheryl: I don’t even know if he will be running or available to be Speaker. So, to be perfectly blunt, I don’t want to get sucked into an argument that I’m not involved in. I’m coming down there to serve my district, not to join a civil war that’s going on. I hope, surely by the next election in 2024, that we have moved past this, because, quite frankly, the Speaker of the House, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton are all great guys. They have different things that they do well, and they have things that I recognize are shortcomings, for each of them. We just need to stop the fighting. I’m not going to get sucked into that. That’s what I’m going to tell you.
Garrit: You’re running to replace State Representative Craig Goldman, and you’ll face off with Leslie Robnett and John McQueeny in the March 5th Republican primary. Why should Republicans nominate you for state representative?
Cheryl: Well, several reasons. One, I am the one with the most experience in District 97. I am the second of four generations that have lived in District 97. My opponents have not been there nearly anywhere near that length of time. I grew up in public schools there, my kids grew up in public schools there, and my grandkids are now growing up in public, private, and charter schools. So that’s one reason. I also worked at Lockheed [Martin], where almost the majority of people that work at Lockheed— I was there 20 years— live in this district. So, I understand a lot of the people there. I have also started a small business in that district. So I know those people. So, I think I have the most understanding of the district. Secondly, I have the most experience going into this— in that I do have many years in defense and in the corporate world, where I had a very successful career there for over 20 years. I have entrepreneurial experience in the district, but just in general. So I know what it means to start a business, run a business— a small business— and deal with things that go along with that, the taxation and everything. Thirdly, I’m on a school board there in Fort Worth. It’s a charter school. So I’m very much in the middle of the school issues today, both public and charter, and things like school choice. I have strong opinions on that. I also am very much involved in the gender identity issues, DEI, and stuff that’s being taught in our schools. So, the bottom line is, I probably have the largest breadth of experience as well as depth in multiple areas. The last thing is, quite frankly, I had the time. I’m at a stage of my life where I don’t have any small children at home, and I had the time to go do that. I’ve done that, and I can handle the workload and go for it.
Garrit: One of the issues you pushed on and one of the big issues from the session and heading into the election is education— school choice, education savings accounts, and parental empowerment. What are your thoughts on ESAs and school choice?
Cheryl: I am very pro school choice. I’ve been involved with Mandy Drogin and her efforts at TPPF (the Texas Public Policy Foundation) now for two or three years already. It needs to be a good option, and we can’t give away everything in order to get it. There has to be a reasonable solution there. When I say that, one of the things I’m concerned about… I went up [to Austin] just a couple of weeks ago, when I first started to come see you [for the interview], and one of the reasons I was coming was to understand why is it not passing? I learned a couple of things. Number one, there’s an intention to hold the private schools that would be getting some of this money accountable by forcing STAAR testing on them. There’s also a bill going through the House to get rid of STAAR testing. I personally think that that needs to be separated from school choice— that every school in the state, no matter if it’s private, charter, or public should have some kind of accountability. Does it have to be all the same test? I don’t know. But to me, when you see the public school system trying to hold the private school system accountable, and yet there is a higher percentage of graduates, SATs scores that are good, and college entries coming out of private schools than there are out of public schools, that’s a pretty good indication. But I think that’s a problem there. There’s a couple of other issues. I know we need to deal with how we’re going to deal with small communities where private school is not an issue, therefore ESAs are not valuable. But I don’t see how that pulls money from them at all, because it only occurs when someone’s pulled from a public school to go to a private school. Bottom line is I would really like to see it happen, and we’d be on board with trying to make it happen. I just want to make sure that we need to get past some of these stumbling blocks, and I know everybody’s struggling with that.
Garrit: You are on the board for two public charter schools. Can you speak more about your time on the board, and can you briefly explain what differentiates public charter schools from other types of school systems like public education, homeschooling, and private schools?
[Editor’s Note: Bean is actually on the school board for the Texas Center for Arts+Sciences, which governs two public charter schools]
Cheryl: Right, well, I’ve been on it for over a year now. Charter schools tend to be more oriented with some specific goals in mind. A public school has to be everything for everyone. By definition, they have to be everything for everyone. So that means in many cases they are not the best solution for anyone, if that makes sense. But I’m impressed with what we do, given how much ground they have to cover from special needs to people that are extremely accelerated to everybody in between, including non-english speaking people. The charter school I was on was oriented towards the fine arts, and I am proud to say that not only do they have good fine arts, but they also have excellent academics in reading and math and their scores. They do very well on that, but there’s a different focus there. They don’t have athletics, for instance. They go for fine arts instead of athletics, and that, typically, is the case for charter schools— they have a different emphasis. A lot of times, it’s just a difference in how much screen time and whether it’s more classical education versus something else that goes along there. I think they have a great place in our system. Probably the most hindering thing for charter schools is they get less than half the money that a public school gets. So automatically, the teachers are not paid as much typically. They have to do more fundraising in order to just make ends meet. So that’s a hindrance to a public charter school, and I would like to see some improvement in that. The thing about when I’ve been on the board is that we’ve been dealing with some real issues regarding gender identity. We made quite a bit of news on it, and we’re holding a pretty strong line there— [our issue] involves choirs. We have the Texas Boys Choir, with a 78 year history and several Grammy Awards, and we have the Singing Girls Choir, which has a 30 year history and awards to go with it— then we have a coed choir. What has come up is we have biological girls wanting to be in the boys choir and biological boys wanting to be in the girls choir, and how they identify is almost irrelevant because they may or may not identify with the choir they are going in or not. What we are trying to say is it’s okay for some things to be girls only, just like it’s okay for some sports to be girls only, and it’s okay for the boys, because, quite frankly, a 13-15 year old girl’s voice does not sound like an eight or nine year old boy’s soprano voice, let’s just be honest about it. The position we have taken is that there are two choirs for every student in that school. But not every choir is for every student in that school. At this point with Title IX, where it’s headed, it is considered a boy is a boy at birth, and a girl is a girl at birth. But the left-wing people are trying to change that to be gender identity, where it says that it’s based on what you prefer to be, not what your biological sex is. So, we’re holding true to that particular meaning. To be perfectly honest, the ACLU is coming after us trying to make an example— as you can imagine. But it’s been a very interesting thing going through this. Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to make this run, because I don’t care how anyone chooses to live their life as long as it’s legal. But that is really their choice, who they choose for a partner and how they choose to live. But I care greatly when they start pushing that choice on an innocent child who doesn’t really even understand what the topic is. To me, that gets to be almost child abuse, and that’s what we’re seeing, not only in this school, but in a lot of schools. You’re seeing it where alternative life choices are being, not just accepted— which I think we need to accept people and not judge— but they’re being pushed on children. Quite frankly, a 6,7,8,9, or 10 year old doesn’t understand what non-binary is. Why are they being pushed on that? So that’s my experience with the charter school. I’m very proud to be on the board. I’m proud of what we, the board, have done. But we’re in an awkward place right now— I think in terms of where schools, as a whole, are going and what we’re teaching the kids.
Garrit: Going back to ESAs. There is some concern from some Republicans in Austin about ESAs, and it comes primarily from rural Republicans. There were 21 Republicans that voted to strip ESAs from HB 1. I’ll use my representative as an example. I’m from East Texas in a very rural area, and my representative [Gary VanDeaver] was one of the ones that voted to strip ESAs from the bill. A common argument you hear is that school choice will take funding away from the schools, or it will ruin the community that the schools provide for these towns in these areas, or that there’s no private school for kids to go to. How would you go about addressing those concerns or convincing those types of Republicans that ESAs and parental empowerment is the way to go?
Cheryl: I think it’s a simple thing. I haven’t sat on the floor and heard those discussions— first of all— but I have talked to the people who are involved in them. The way I understand it is if the average child gets somewhere between 15 and 18,000, that’s how much a public school gets for every student in their classroom— obviously, that’s more if it’s a non-english-speaking child or a special needs child— all the ESAs would ever take away is up somewhere between eight or 10, which is somewhere between half or slightly over half. So the reality of it is, even in the worst case, the public schools end up with more dollars per child with the ESA system in there than they do before. I don’t think that’s been well advertised out in those areas. The second thing is, when you go to a smaller community, number one, they don’t have— many times— a private school option, but the other thing is, sometimes, they are the biggest employer in the community. That makes the teacher unions and people in that area extremely strong. If you have a house representative that’s getting a big source of his funding from that source, that’s gonna make it very hard for him to stand up to and defend that. I think that of the 21 votes of conservatives who did not vote for ESA and school choice, 19 were heavily funded by the teachers union. So, I think, once again, there needs to be an education process to reassure the teachers in that community that no, you’re going to end up with more money per capita. Even if you have a private school, let’s be honest, they don’t have the capacity to take on all the public school kids anyway, and you still have to meet the requirements. So I think that’s how you do it. You need to educate the community, and you need to let them know because most people I’ve talked to have no clue that it’s not taking all the money and the schools are coming out better per student, versus the other way.
Garrit: We talked about teacher unions a bit. I’m not too sure [of] the role teacher unions play with charter schools, but could you speak about how we can go about dealing with teachers unions? And I wanted to ask, what are your thoughts on, and I’m blanking on the specific code, but there’s a bit of code for public education that requires them to take out dues from payroll for membership with these associations, like the American Federation of Teachers, if the teacher requests it. So, what are your thoughts about doing away with that? Because [I believe] it’s been attempted before, but it hasn’t been successful.
[Editor’s Note: The Code Garrit is referring to is Chapter 22 of the Texas Education Code]
Cheryl: Well, I think it has its place. It’s kind of like all unions in general. In the defense industry, I know more about the union out there than I do the teachers because I had to deal with it all the time. There was a time that union workers were not being well represented in terms of both pay, insurance, benefits, and all that stuff, and I think that’s largely where the teachers union started too because they’re not on social security, they got their own retirement fund and things like that. So I think they’ve had a place in our history, they probably still have a place in our history. I do think they have become too powerful when they are dictating what is taught. Their role to me is more to care for the employees that are teachers and make sure they have representation and legal representation, not to dictate what’s taught in the schools or what isn’t taught in school or, for that matter, whether students have to wear masks or not wear masks, There is a whole list of things that they seem to have gotten into in recent years.
Garrit: Moving on a bit. Another big issue from the session and currently going on right now is the border. What are your thoughts on SB 4, which was recently signed by the Governor and has been dubbed by some news organizations as the “toughest anti-immigration law in the US?”
Cheryl: I say hallelujah. That’s what I say. As I understand it, and I honestly haven’t had a chance to sit down and really read through it— I will do that over the holidays that are coming up right now— it’s giving Texas the right to arrest these people and ship them back. And it’s hallelujah. If the federal government is not going to do its job, we need to do it. The other thing we need to do… I literally have 20 years in the defense world. I still actually have some ownership in a company that’s in defense right now and have been involved with it since, but I did the leading edge. So I am very strong on it. Number one, making sure we have the laws to support our guys and we empower them and say, “you’ve got the right and the ability to defend yourself and go do this,” and then making sure they have the right equipment, because I always worked the very leading edge when I was in the defense industry. So stuff I worked on, way back when under top secret clearance, it’s just now showing up where people in general are starting to see it. There’s ways of doing things that would be much more effective than what we’re doing. For instance, I know, we have a house on the lake, that’s a barn actually, that we go down and spend a lot of time on Lake Granbury, and they are pulling the game wardens off the lake, on a frequent basis, to go down to the border and monitor and patrol the border and the water. One of them happens to be a friend. He has some training with guns and stuff like this, but he’s not trained to conduct counter terrorism. That’s not what he signed up for. He’s there to make sure people aren’t speeding and everything else, and we’re sending them down there in harm’s way. If you want to do something strategic, you do some of the wiring that we’re doing on those big orange balls— or those other ways that I can’t talk about— that keep our warriors, in that regard, out of harm’s way while we do it. So anyway, I’m very strong on it is all I can tell you. If you get me going, I might talk to you for an hour.
Garrit: In previous discussions I’ve had with candidates that are running in places around the border, they tell me that these communities along the border get absolutely overrun with the immigrants coming into the cities and counties, and they cannot really deal with all of this. I also spoke with a candidate that’s in the Beaumont area, and that’s actually the district where Colony Ridge is, and she told me all about how the city and county and school services are really struggling to deal with the large influx of immigrants. So, how has the border impacted your community?
Cheryl: Yeah, that’s interesting. I have relatives in the Beaumont area. I know that it’s hitting our schools quite a bit. I don’t see why we should be paying for all of these people that are entering illegally. I just don’t. I don’t see any reason for that. But on the other side of it, I run a construction industry. I’m a general contractor. I have not had one illegal person show up at my door looking for a job. Furthermore, I was president of the Builders Association over a seven county area in the last two years. I haven’t found anyone who’s experienced that. So, where are they really going? What are they doing to earn a living? Because construction is one of the leading places that people typically go. So I don’t know what they’re doing. But that makes me very uncomfortable. Because obviously they’re earning a living somewhere. But what is it? I mean, you know, my mind goes to… it’s not just the infrastructure supporting them, but it gives me a very uncomfortable feeling of how they are supporting themselves, if not on the American, US taxpayer’s back. I will say this, also. Having schools even when my kids were going to school, which they’re in their 30s and early 40s now, the Hispanic community is very large. And I have a large Hispanic community that works for me. They are all here with papers and legal in that regard. We’re used to that. That’s something that’s changed between me going to school and them going to school, but I can’t imagine what it must be like now, in some areas of town. And it’s such an influx of kids who don’t even speak English, because it does cost substantially more to put a non speaking teacher in there and deal with that.
Garrit: On your website, you state that your experience provides you a unique perspective on the needs of law enforcement personnel. What are the needs of law enforcement in your community, and what does the state need to do to support law enforcement personnel?
Cheryl: In my area, we are very lucky to have Sheriff Waybourn as our sheriff. I don’t know if you’ve ever met him— you ought to interview him sometime. He’s pretty awesome. He’s like a big John Wayne. So we have never dealt with the “defund the police” or anything like you have in other areas like Austin and stuff. So our needs are probably not as severe as you see in some other areas around the country. Because he’s held the line. I got to tour the jail recently— because I’m also on the mental health board here for Tarrant and many other counties as well. I’ve been very impressed at how well they work together directly with the police department. In fact, anytime you get a call that comes in, and there’s some kind of crises, particularly a family crisis, or something like that, there’s a direct connection made between the police and the mental health people to understand if there’s somebody there in that home that either has a record of some kind of addiction or medicine they might need or if there’s been another instance before. So it’s really good. I can’t say that we’ve had huge issues in that. I’m just saying that I am sensitive to that and want to make sure that… I know my church has personally funded getting bulletproof vests and stuff for the officers across the way for many years and helped them do that. So there’s obviously some needs there. But just keeping that strong and being able to support whatever those might be is what we need to keep focused on.
Garrit: As you’ve campaigned around your district, what are some of the other issues that voters have had concerns about?
Cheryl: Election integrity. I work with a group that’s really been trying, I don’t know if they’ve ever gotten it yet, for the last couple of years to get election results from 2020, and now it’s been stalled and getting those has been so severe that I think they may have got it, but I’m not sure I haven’t asked in the last couple of weeks. They’re almost at the point where now that we have access to them, they’re going to be destroyed because it’s been too long, and they only keep records for so long. So once again, Fort Worth is not as bad or Tarrant County is not anywhere like some other communities, even in Texas, in terms of the election issues. But we had our share of election issues, whether it’s people who are harvesting votes. We have one case where we have a homeless guy who police stopped who said he was getting $100 per vote [he could] get to “fill out this thing.” We had some issues with the number of ballots going out to a voting site and a different quantity coming back. There’s some discrepancies there. There’s issues with not every voting site having an observer from both parties. I know people are very concerned, and we wanted to make sure that the election results reflect what people wanted. So that’s definitely one of the top ones right there. Then you’ve also got the pro-freedoms. Fort Worth is the largest conservative county in the United States. But we’re getting kind of almost purple. We’re trying really hard to stay conservative, and we don’t want to see the two-tier justice systems coming in. We were very lucky that we just recently elected a very strong conservative District Attorney, as well as County Judge. But we want to keep that going because we will fight hard to keep our freedoms, whether it be speech, guns, life, whatever that might be.
Garrit: Do you have any final things you’d like to say before we conclude the interview?
Cheryl: I think I kind of said what I want to say mainly. I’m looking forward to this. I am not a career politician. I will not be a career politician. I’m doing this to go make a difference. That’s the main thing I want to say, and I think I chose to get in because I think I have the experience to go make a difference. And honestly, I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to my job and the determination to stand up and be bold.