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)

 

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

Pastors for Texas Children, a pro-public education group, is warning that the creation of a “parallel private system of education” funded with tax dollars — through vouchers or other schemes — would violate the Texas Constitution and harm the religious schools proponents of such a system want to fund.

That warning came in a brief the group filed on Tuesday with the Texas Supreme Court, which just took up a major case on whether the state’s current system for funding public education meets constitutional requirements.

The Pastors of Texas Children brief follows a brief from a religious-right group, the Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council, which argued that the state’s failure to give taxpayer dollars to sectarian schools is evidence of an anti-religion bias and threatens religious freedom. Pastors for Texas Children flatly rejects such arguments, warning that such schemes would actually harm religious schools:

“The last thing our fine public schools need is more dollars drained away from them, and the last thing our fine private schools need is the government intervention and oversight that will inevitably and necessarily follow the public money they receive.”

The Pastors for Texas Children brief also notes the lack of evidence showing that students who use private school vouchers… Read More

Religious-righters are twisting and redefining “religious liberty” so much that the term itself is in danger of becoming almost meaningless. Fortunately, a growing number of mainstream religious leaders from around the state are calling out the nonsense. The latest battleground: public subsidies (such as vouchers) for religious schools.

The rabidly anti-gay, religious-right group Houston Area Pastor Council, which also goes by the name Texas Pastor Council and U.S. Pastor Council, is leading the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The group, led by one of Houston’s most vicious anti-gay activists, Dave Welch, claims that barring discrimination against people because of who they are or whom they love violates the religious freedom of people to, well, discriminate.

Then last week Welch’s group filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court arguing that the failure of the state to provide taxpayer funding to faith-based schools is also a violation of religious freedom. The brief is for a major court long-running case on whether the way Texas funds its public schools violates the state Constitution. The Pastor Council argues, in part:

The total and complete exclusion of religious providers from the public education system severely implicates religious liberty, whereas their inclusion clearly does not violate religious liberty or the Establishment Clause per… Read More

The folks over at Texas Eagle Forum, the state chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right organization, are worried that “leftist” ideology is infiltrating the state’s public schools through the widely respected International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Seriously.

Writing in the group’s May newsletter (which is now available online), Texas Eagle Forum Vice President MerryLynn Gerstenschlager wrings her hands over students at an IB charter school in New Mexico who voted this year for a “Prom-munism” theme  at their end-of-school dance. While students explained that the event theme was intended as something of a joke, right-wingers have latched on to it as an example communism on the rise among American youth.

And Gerstenschlager fears that the International Baccalaureate program is to blame and suggests Texas schools should dump it:

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

What is wrong with an American education, where our kids learn about American exceptionalism and the things that have made America a shining city on a hill? What could have possibly happened in that IB classroom that skewed such bright minds so much that they lost their way?

Maybe Texas should… Read More

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