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)

 

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

With all of the damage culture warriors on the State Board of Education have done — or tried to do — to the education of Texas public school students in their science and history classrooms, it can be easy to forget what they’ve also done on sex education. Today the online news magazine Slate posted the above video, which examines how two high school health textbooks from the same publisher address sex education — one submitted for adoption in Texas in 2004 and the other a decade earlier. That abstinence-only textbook from 2004, which doesn’t include a shred of information on contraception, remains in classrooms today.

Slate focused this video on the health textbooks from just one publisher, Holt, Rinehart and Winston. But publisher Glencoe/McGraw-Hill’s health textbooks were also abstinence-only. Holt and Glencoe essentially split the Texas health textbook market between them in 2004-05.

The State Board of Education hasn’t set an adoption date for the next generation of health textbooks for Texas public schools. We’re likely about five years away, at least. Meanwhile, Texas has the  one of the highest teen birth rates among the nation’s 50 states — the fifth highest, in fact, as of 2013. And the Texas Legislature still refuses to encourage school districts… Read More

Sort of. From Associated Press:

Alabama is updating its decade-old science standards to require that students understand evolution and learn about climate change, topics that can still be controversial in the Bible Belt state.

Educators say the new rules — part of a major change that includes more experimentation and hands-on instruction and less lecturing — don’t require that students believe in evolution or accept the idea that climate is changing globally.

But public school students will be required for the first time to understand the theory of evolution. And teachers will be required to address climate change, which wasn’t a focus the last time the state set science standards in 2005.

Unfortunately, Alabama still requires textbooks to cast doubt on evolution. From the same story:

Textbooks used in Alabama science classes have carried a disclaimer sticker for years stating that evolution is a “controversial theory,” not fact, and the new course of study doesn’t change the warnings, which were advocated by Christian conservatives.

Back in 2009, the State Board of Education in Texas approved new curriculum standards that creationists hoped would force publishers to include discredited arguments attacking evolution in their new textbooks. But the Texas Freedom… Read More

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