Whether it’s in Washington or Austin, one of the most important responsibilities our policymakers can meet is to invest in the health, education, and well-being of Texas children.  Our children are our next generation of thinkers, workers, and leaders, and if we hope to compete against the rest of the world, we must ensure they have the tools, training, and opportunities to excel.

The problem is policymakers often treat children as an afterthought rather than as an investment.  The immediacy of some particular piece of legislation – usually at the behest of a powerful lobbyist or interest group – will distract from the tougher generational investments.  “Now” is always more important than “later.”

From time to time – similar to how most politicians try to wrap themselves in the flag – politicians will try to lay claim to being defenders or advocates for children.  Some really mean it, most do not. The proof is in their votes, or in their own public or private behavior, or in actual outcomes – the lack of health insurance, overcrowded classrooms, and high dropout rates.

State Representative Tony Tinderholt is one politician who doesn’t seem to believe government has much responsibility for investing in children.  In 2015, Tinderholt opposed bipartisan legislation to fund expanded pre-kindergarten in Texas, complaining, “I just don’t agree that the government should be coming forward and taking responsibility, especially when it comes to children.”

Reform Austin has written previously about Arlington Tinderholt’s financial mismanagement, his association with fringe, anti-science groups and his appetite for special interest campaign contribution cash. But beyond his inflammatory language and positions, perhaps most troubling is his totally irresponsible conduct with regard to children.

Before moving to Texas, Tinderholt was a partner in a daycare establishment with his then-wife and another business partner.  His then-wife and business partner were caught embezzling money from the business to support their addiction to cocaine, crack, acid, and marijuana.

The daycare business became insolvent, and Tinderholt filed for bankruptcy, avoiding any responsibility for his debts. According to court-ordered testimony, Tinderholt had allowed his then-wife and another business partner to continue operating the childcare facility the owned even though he knew they were abusing illegal drugs.  He cared more about the keeping the business going than in protecting the kids other parents were trusting him to protect.

Later, when working as a manager of a Fort Worth bar, Tinderholt allowed an underage employee to drink alcohol while on the job.  The employee – a minor – was clearly intoxicated, yet Tinderholt allowed the employee to drive himself home. The employee was then involved in a major accident, driving off the road and receiving serious injuries.

Tony Tinderholt has failed to take responsibility for children.  In his professional life, he has placed children at risk multiple times, and as a politician he believes government has little responsibility to invest in their future.

Tony Tinderholt has to adjust his priorities – our kids need the legislature to invest in their future, by prioritizing their needs and paying less attention to corporate special interests.  We need to Reform Austin.