Education

With a public school enrollment of more than 5 million, Texas has an increasingly diverse public education system. Unfortunately, that public education system is also the target of politicians seeking to privatize our neighborhood public schools and push a culture-war agenda in the classroom.

To that end, the Texas Freedom Network – while continuing to fight private school voucher legislation at the Capitol – has conducted groundbreaking research into what is being taught in classrooms on subjects like sex education and religion.

Resources

Broken Promises: Charter Schools in Texas (2000 report)

Broken Promises II (2001 report)

 

The State Board of Education: Dragging Texas Schools into the Culture Wars (2008 report)

 

Just Say Don’t Know: Sex Education in Texas Public Schools (2009 report)

Sex Education in Public Schools: Progress in the Lone Star State (2011 report)

Reading Writing & Religion: Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools (2006 report)

Reading, Writing & Religion II (2013 report)

Can This Class Be Saved? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Public School Bible Curriculum (2014 report)

 

You already know it’s a presidential election year. It’s also an election year for the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), with eight of the board’s 15 seats on ballots all across the state this November.

SBOE races don’t always get much attention, which is unfortunate because if you’ve followed us here you probably know how important — or how much of a headache — the board can be. The board has the power to decide what’s taught to more than 5 million public school students, and throughout the years some SBOE members haven’t been shy about pushing the culture wars into the classroom.

So with that in mind, if you live in SBOE districts 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14 or 15, you can vote for an SBOE member this year.

(If you don’t know which SBOE district you’re in, you can find out here.)

In districts 14 and 15, you won’t have a choice on who to vote for as both incumbents — Sue Melton-Malone, R-Waco, and Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo — are unopposed. The rest of you will have contested SBOE races on your ballots.

Below are this year’s SBOE candidates. We encourage you to… Read More

The right’s contempt for facts is especially evident when it comes to issues like climate change and evolution. Here’s some of the science denialism we heard from the right on in 2015. (Click here for previous posts on what we heard from the right in 2015.)

“I’m going to punt on that one as well. That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another. I love the evolution of trade in Wisconsin.”

– Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, responding to questions about his thoughts on evolution during his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

“No, it hasn’t changed my mind. We all have the same evidence, and it’s just a matter of how you interpret it. There’s no dates stamped on these things.”

– Canadian Edgar Nernberg, who serves on the board of a creationist museum that promotes the idea that Earth is only about 6,000 years old, explaining his personal discovery of 60-million-year-old fish fossil.

“Humans, horses, and other animals do not use similar facial muscles and communicative expressions because of shared ancestry, but they do share a common Designer and so we would expect to see similarities in living things — and… Read More

by Dan Quinn

Education continues to be a major battleground in the religious right’s culture wars. If they’re not trying to destroy public education, religious righters are trying to use it instead to indoctrinate students in right-wing ideology. Here’s some of what we heard from the right on this issue in 2015. (Click here for previous posts on what we heard from the right in 2015.)

“We have a monstrosity, a monopoly. It’s called public school.”

– Texas state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, explaining her support for voucher legislation that would shift public funding to private and religious schools.

“(W)e are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment…”

– In a letter from Tea Party activists on Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s special “Grassroots Advisory Board,” arguing that proposed legislation for pre-K classes would lead Texas kids to Godless socialism.

“Could the IB program in an American public school classroom be at the heart of America’s continuing move to the left?

– MerryLynn Gerstenschlager of Texas Eagle Forum, worrying that the widely respected International BaccalaureateRead More

Last June, just before Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, as the new chair of the State Board of Education, outgoing chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, tried to get the SBOE more authority. Today the Texas Attorney General’s Office slapped down that power grab.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office released a formal opinion saying that the SBOE does not have authority under Texas law to set rules for how local school districts adopt textbooks. Cargill and her allies on and off the board had hoped the AG would say otherwise. They’re upset that local school districts can adopt textbooks that the state board doesn’t approve. So they wanted to make it harder for school districts to do so by putting in place a variety of rules to follow.

Paxton’s opinion explains that the Legislature has not given the state board authority to set such rules. The opinion is available here.

We just sent out the following statement.

“We’re certainly pleased to see the attorney general agree that this attempted power grab by certain board members wasn’t supported by state law. It’s important to remember that the board just last month stubbornly refused to establish even… Read More

Formal AG’S Opinion Rejects Effort to Give the State Board of Education Authority to Set Rules for Local Textbook Adoptions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 4, 2015

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office today released a formal opinion saying that the State Board of Education does not have authority under Texas law to set rules for how local school districts adopt textbooks. The opinion is in response to a request from the SBOE’s then-chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, in June. The AG’s opinion is available here: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/opinions/51paxton/op/2015/kp0043.pdf.

The following statement can be attributed to Dan Quinn, communications director at the Texas Freedom Network:

“We’re certainly pleased to see the attorney general agree that this attempted power grab by certain board members wasn’t supported by state law. It’s important to remember that the board just last month stubbornly refused to establish even basic qualifications for the people it asks to review the textbooks that go into our kids’ classrooms. So rather than playing politics and pretending that they know best how local school officials should do their jobs, maybe these board members should spend more time putting their own house in order and earning the… Read More

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