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)

 

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

Former Texas State Board of Education chair Don McLeroy isn’t done distorting history.

While McLeroy was on the board in 2010, he and his colleagues gave Texas schools new social studies curriculum standards that downplay the primary role slavery played in the Civil War. Now, as a former SBOE member, he’s rewriting the role he and other board members played in writing those pretty much universally panned standards on which history textbooks for millions of Texas schoolchildren are based.

Here was McLeroy this week, appearing alongside TFN President Kathy Miller, on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” McLeroy defended the standards (as well as the ridiculous revision and approval process for those standards) and said some things that weren’t very accurate. Watch the clip in its entirety and we’ll have more below the fold.

On the causes of the Civil War, McLeroy says the board “never really discussed that very much.” He actually makes that claim twice in the “Ed Show” clip. Coincidentally, that’s how many times the board discussed (at length) the causes of the Civil War in just one day — May 20, 2010.

Thankfully, there’s video of that day. At just after the 9:30 mark of this clip, SBOE member Pat… Read More

On Thursday Donna Bahorich was appointed the new chair of the Texas State Board of Education. In this Houston Chronicle story on Bahorich’s appointment, a former chair, Don McLeroy, left the following comment:

I find it ironic that it its Mr. Ratliff, and the Texas Freedom Network(By the way, thank you for not including them in your story!) are the ones out there making contentious statements; it was always that way. The media has portrayed that it was the religious conservatives that caused ’embarrassing public fights’ when it was actually the other side. Just look again at who is ‘publicly fighting’ in your story.”

No, Dr. McLeroy, TFN and the media did not create the circus at the board. We were all just there with cameras, quoting you — the ringmaster during many of these debates — accurately.

Don McLeroy: “Someone has to stand up to experts!”

Don McLeroy on how women got the right to vote

Don McLeroy explains dinosaurs on the ark

Don McLeroy explains the United Nations

It wasn’t just McLeroy. Here’s fellow board member David Bradley vs. church-state separation

Read More

For another indication of just how much the paranoid, right-wing political fringe has become embedded in Texas government, check out what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Grassroots Advisory Board” is up to. Today the panel of Tea Party activists released a letter criticizing Gov. Greg Abbott’s plans to expand pre-K programs in the state. Those programs, the advisory board insists, will undermine parental rights and put children into “a Godless environment” that promotes socialism.

Yeah, that’s right. Tea Party activists who advise the Republican lieutenant governor are accusing the Republican governor of trying to lead Texas kids into Godless socialism. This is whack-a-loon territory.

The governor’s plan, outlined in House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 801, call for more funding and better quality standards for pre-K programs that school districts choose to offer. Lt. Gov. Patrick’s Tea Party advisors see the bills as a step toward universal pre-K education for all Texas kids. (TFN takes no position on these bills. Pre-K isn’t one of the issues that we focus on. But we do monitor what the right-wing fringe is up to, and they really don’t like pre-K.)

You can read the full letter from the lieutenant governor’s advisory committee here. Some choice excerpts:

“(W)e are experimenting at great… Read More

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