A First Step Toward Reining in the SBOE

We have just seen the first legislative vote aimed at reining in the Texas State Board of Education. Yesteday the Texas House Public Education Committee unanimously passed House Bill 772, which would require that state board meetings be streamed live over the Internet in video and audio. We released the following statement from Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller:

For too long this board has been able to operate outside the watchful eye of parents and other taxpayers, and lawmakers seem to have had enough. Ideologues have turned the board into a playground for promoting personal political agendas rather than the interests of Texas schoolchildren. If installing a camera helps rein in those board members, we think taxpayers will be well served.

Kathy testified in favor of the bill, which was filed by state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. Rep. Howard and other lawmakers have been filing other key SBOE reform bills as well. TFN Insider will be closely following the progress of all these bills.

You can also stay informed by clicking here to join a TFN Rapid Response Team and subscribe to TFN Daily News Clips.

30 thoughts on “A First Step Toward Reining in the SBOE

  1. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Just in case the Texas State Board of Education might be wondering what is happening here, I would offer the following for their consideration:

    “Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become
    known.” (Luke 12:2).

    Also the following scripture-based poetry from a church’s Sunday call to worship. The Texas Freedom Network could adopt this as its official marching orders if it so desires:

    Come, let us unmask the lies and tell the truth,
    And let us listen for more to be revealed.
    For Jesus says, “What is said in the dark,
    Will be heard in the light.
    What is whispered behind closed doors,
    Will be shouted from the rooftops!”
    We are called to speak truth to power.
    But what will we say and how?
    Jesus says, Do not worry about what to say,
    The Holy Spirit will teach you;
    And he promises, We will know the truth,
    And the truth will make us free.

    Lovely that—just lovely. God has a way of taking the wooden stake straight to the heart of the vampire.

  2. –Yesteday the Texas House Public Education Committee unanimously passed House Bill 772, which would require that state board meetings be streamed live over the Internet in video and audio. —

    Again I ask, how is adding video an improvement if there is no visual presentation at the meeting?

  3. Audio broadcasts are insufficient for informing the public. Not everyone recognizes the voices of speakers at board meetings. In addition, the chairman does not announce how each board member voted. And some business at meetings includes the use of visuals. Video could help citizens in all of those situations. Finally, it’s the 21st century, for Pete’s sake. The better question is why not have video at meetings when it is technologically possible and relatively inexpensive?

  4. The legislature should require the Texas School Board of Education to adhere and subscribe to Science in the classrooms and leave their religion at home and in the churches. Folks all over this nation are laughing at Texas because a group of Gov. Ricky’s appointees are on their way to wrecking the schools. Dayton, Tennessee has nothing on this school board. Now Texans can see and hear what these school board members say. I am sure this will be one more show! It will be something to see the monkeys come from their monkey trees and sit on the board and entertain Texas with their lack of knowledge. I am sure the governor doesn’t believe all this far right and fundamenalist junk, and I am certain he appointed those members to rake in the votes on election day. When Texans wake up to the fact there are unqualified board members who know nothing about education, I believe they will rise up and protest! Amen. – Wendell Franklin Wentz

  5. I am very glad that 183 State Senators and Representatives have taken the initiative to insure that legislation which they have passed is not misinterpeted by 15 members of the State Board of Education who have different agendas and objectives.

  6. TFN Says (March 4, 2009 at 7:03 pm) —
    –Not everyone recognizes the voices of speakers at board meetings. —

    The name of the speaker can be announced in the audio.

    –In addition, the chairman does not announce how each board member voted.–

    That can be announced in the audio, too.

    –The better question is why not have video at meetings when it is technologically possible and relatively inexpensive?–

    OK, but I don’t see how this is going to help “rein in” the SBOE.

    Wendell Franklin Wentz Says (March 5, 2009 at 6:46 pm) —
    –The legislature should require the Texas School Board of Education to adhere and subscribe to Science in the classrooms and leave their religion at home and in the churches. —

    That legislature can’t do that — that would be unconstitutional. In defining what later became known as the “endorsement test,” Justice Sandra O’Connor said in a concurring opinion in Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984),

    The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community.
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0465_0668_ZC.html

    Also, Article VI of the Constitution prohibits religious tests for office-holders.

    –Folks all over this nation are laughing at Texas–

    I doubt that — I presume that most people regard Texas as a high-tech state.

    –a group of Gov. Ricky’s appointees are on their way to wrecking the schools.–

    The SBOE members are not the governor’s appointees (except the SBOE chairman, who I think is selected by the governor from among the board members) — they are directly elected.

    The SBOE cannot wreck the schools, because local school districts in Texas can choose state-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost, which isn’t much.

    1. Well, Larry, it’s a simple matter of open government. When it’s easier for voters to see their elected officials acting outrageously, they’re more likely to hold those officials accountable for their actions.

      As for textbooks, where in the world did you get the idea that the full cost of textbooks “isn’t much”? Buying classroom sets of textbooks is very expensive. In fact, this state spends hundreds of millions of dollars on textbooks in just one adoption year. It is rare when a local school district will choose to spend local tax dollars on something it can get the state to pay for. They need those local tax dollars for other things. The State Board of Education effectively determines which textbooks every student in this state will use.

  7. TFN Says (March 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm) —
    –As for textbooks, where in the world did you get the idea that the full cost of textbooks “isn’t much”?–

    Biology textbooks cost around $100 apiece and supposing that they are good for about five years, that’s only about $20 per year per student. That is a tiny fraction of the annual per student cost for public education.

    Also, a popular biology textbook, “Biology” by Ken Miller and Joe Levine, already comes in regular, Texas, and California editions.

  8. Well Larry F., are you against the US court or in favor of it? Only when it is a convenience for you???

  9. Sorry, I am not laughing at Texas. I am sympathetically concerned for the state if the School Board continues beating science to a pulp and trying to bring 18th Century ideas into the science class rooms. Not only will your students not have valid information about human sexuality but they will not understand the genetic basis for understanding how organisms evolve into other organisms.

  10. Who appoints the Texas State Board of Education? How do they come to be this reactionary? Heve they ever studied biology, evolution, socia-biology? They might be in for surprises.

    We need an elected board so we can judge wat each board member stands for rather than their ideological makeup.

    Abbie Lipschutz
    Houston, Texas

  11. jdg Says (March 5, 2009 at 10:36 pm) —
    –Well Larry F., are you against the US court or in favor of it? Only when it is a convenience for you???–

    WHAT? Are you saying that you disagree with the endorsement test? Do you always ask that question of someone who makes a court-opinion citation that you disagree with?

    I know that I’ve got him now!

  12. Of course, expecting individual school districts to order their own state-unapproved textbooks is an inadequate solution. What makes much more sense is putting rational people in charge of approving the textbooks in the first place.

  13. Abbie Lipschutz Says (March 6, 2009 at 1:46 am) —
    –Who appoints the Texas State Board of Education?–

    They are not appointed — they are directly elected, except that the governor chooses the chairperson.

    –Heve they ever studied biology, evolution, socia-biology?–

    Four of the seven SBOE supporters of the “strengths and weaknesses” language have backgrounds in science, at least three of them in biology. The following info is from the SBOE website:
    http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/members.html

    Ken Mercer —
    He earned a bachelor’s in biology from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Business Administration from UT-San Antonio.

    Barbara Cargill —
    . . . she taught biology in the Garland and Hurst-Euless-Bedford school districts between 1982 and 1991.

    Cynthia Dunbar —
    Cynthia Noland Dunbar currently teaches anatomy & physiology to high school juniors and seniors.
    Dunbar obtained her undergraduate degree in biology and psychology from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

    Gail Lowe —
    Lowe attended the University of Alabama. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in 1978. (the field of science is not specified)

    Also, board chairman Don McLeroy, who is also a member of the seven, has a degree in electrical engineering. Engineering students generally take little or no college biology but they do take a lot of the physical sciences and mathematics. A lot of engineering itself consists of the physical sciences.

    You should look before you leap.

  14. Larry is apparently not aware of the part of the Texas constitution which explicitly states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, PROVIDED HE ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXISTENCE OF A SUPREME BEING.” (emphasis mine)

    The requirement of acknowledging the existence of a supreme being is a “religious test” — something that has just been forbidden in the earlier part of the sentence.

    That, my friend, seems in direct conflict with the US Constitution. So should it be Lynch v. Donnelly? Or Texas?

  15. Larry F. is a hypocrite. He goes for the courts when it favors him (Lynch v. Donnelly) and hates the courts when it doesn’t (Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al)

  16. Ken Mercer –
    He earned a bachelor’s in biology from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Business Administration from UT-San Antonio.

    Barbara Cargill –
    . . . she taught biology in the Garland and Hurst-Euless-Bedford school districts between 1982 and 1991.

    Cynthia Dunbar –
    Cynthia Noland Dunbar currently teaches anatomy & physiology to high school juniors and seniors.
    Dunbar obtained her undergraduate degree in biology and psychology from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

    Gail Lowe –
    Lowe attended the University of Alabama. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in 1978. (the field of science is not specified)

    Aparently they failed these courses……. since they are clueless about evolution. When is the final vote again??

  17. Biology Teacher Says (March 6, 2009 at 7:46 pm) —
    –Larry is apparently not aware of the part of the Texas constitution which explicitly states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, PROVIDED HE ACKNOWLEDGE THE EXISTENCE OF A SUPREME BEING.” (emphasis added by Biology Teacher)

    The requirement of acknowledging the existence of a supreme being is a “religious test” — something that has just been forbidden in the earlier part of the sentence.

    That, my friend, seems in direct conflict with the US Constitution. So should it be Lynch v. Donnelly? Or Texas?–

    My friend, you are comparing apples and oranges. The “endorsement test” of Lynch v. Donnelly is primarily directed at the establishment clause of the 1st amendment of the US Constitution’s bill of rights, whereas a “religious test” primarily concerns the Constitution’s Article VI. Also, the “endorsement test” excerpt — from Lynch v. Donnelly — that I cited primarily concerns the right of individuals to express religious views without fear of discrimination (“The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community”), whereas the “religious test” of the Texas Constitution (“provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being”) appears to be primarily concerned with oaths of office — there is nothing in that religious test that requires SBOE members to take religious positions on issues before the board. So, in answer to your question, the most applicable authority is Lynch v. Donnelly, and whether or not there is a conflict between the Texas Constitution and the US Constitution’s Article VI in regard to “religious tests” for public office is immaterial so far as my arguments here are concerned. I only mentioned Article VI as additional support for my position. Also, that religious test in the Texas Constitution may have been written before federal courts broadly defined “religion” to include atheism — see Kaufman v. McCaughtry (7th Cir. 2005).

    jdg Says (March 6, 2009 at 10:14 pm ) —
    –Larry F. is a hypocrite. He goes for the courts when it favors him (Lynch v. Donnelly) and hates the courts when it doesn’t (Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al)–

    The stupidity of that statement is unbelievable — it is perfectly acceptable to support court decisions that one agrees with while at the same time opposing court decisions that one disagrees with. And the infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision is an insult to normal people’s intelligence — among his many misdeeds, the crackpot activist judge who decided the case showed extreme prejudice against intelligent design and the Dover defendants — regardless of whether or not ID is a religious concept — by saying that his decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions.

    jdg Says (March 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm) —
    –Aparently they failed these courses……. since they are clueless about evolution.–

    You can’t get a degree in courses that you fail, dummox.

  18. Yes, Larry.

    A person can also go through an entire college degree curriculum and get that degree within a hair’s diameter of the minimum GPA required for graduation. A “D-minus” (just barely passing) grade in History 101 can be countered with an “A+” in Golf 101 to get there.

    Many (and I do mean many) graduate without knowing how to write a coherent sentence. I have to stay at my office until 2:00 a.m. correcting their work. Sad to say, many of these employees have a graduation GPA of 3.00 +.

    I recall an old college friend (nicknamed Fred here) who was running a C average in an engineeering curriculum. He was either a junior or senior at the time. Fred came back from a CE class one day with an asssignment to write a term paper on bridges. He worked hard on it for several weeks. A friend and I were in graduate school at the time, and Fred asked us to review his paper. We were shocked to see that it was only about three pages, and all three pages read something like the following:

    “Briges are bilt to so different kinds of ground trafik can crosses them to get other side.”

    To say the least, it was a thinking and communications disaster area. Well, guess what Larry? He graduated from a major university (comparable to UT-Austin, UCLA, or Ohio State) with a degree in engineering—probably with that same C average. Last I heard many years ago, he was working as an engineer for some firm.

    My point here is simply this. A person can get a college degree in any number of subjects, incuding biology, and still walk out into the world as a real dummy.

    Ben. Do you have any stories to tell about a real dummy who graduated from a major university?

  19. Larry F is still clueless. He says “The stupidity of that statement is unbelievable”

    Larry F is a hallmark of “stupidity” He believes that evolution/ the holocaust/ Aids doesn’t exist.
    How stupid is that.

    I really hope your 14yrs old and a freshman in highschool because your ignorance is one of worst I’ve seen in a while.

  20. “Ben. Do you have any stories to tell about a real dummy who graduated from a major university?”

    I guess Rick Perry would fall into this camp.

    Another point to understand: Creationists can study evolution for decades, but who cares? Atheists can study the bible, but you wouldn’t want them setting the agenda at Sunday school. I’m guessing plenty of atheists know the bible better than Larry does, but does that mean we should turn to atheists for instruction on matters of faith?

  21. I don’t know why the following announcement that I submitted disappeared — here it is again —

    The Texas Education Agency sent the following message about the upcoming last public hearing for the new Texas science standards:

    –Public Hearing Scheduled for Revisions to Proposed TEKS for Science

    A public hearing has been scheduled to receive testimony on proposed revisions to the Science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills prior to second reading and final adoption on March 26-27, 2009.

    The Public Hearing will take place on Wednesday, March 25th from noon until 6 p.m.. For more information about public hearings, please see
    http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/op_rules.html#publichearings

    More info — including important info about the latest revisions — is on my blog at —

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2009/02/another-public-comment-period-for.html

  22. Mr. Fafarman sez: And the infamous Kitzmiller v. Dover decision is an insult to normal people’s intelligence — among his many misdeeds, the crackpot activist judge who decided the case showed extreme prejudice against intelligent design and the Dover defendants…

    I wonder if the blatant lies and handwaving done by the SB members and their allies had anything to do with the judge’s opinions? I doubt that I’d be very objective towards a defendant who treated the court like it was an idiot.

  23. trog69 Says:
    — I wonder if the blatant lies and handwaving done by the SB members and their allies had anything to do with the judge’s opinions? —

    There is no excuse for the judge’s statement — made in a commencement speech at Dickinson College — that his decision was based on his cockamamie notion that the Founders based the establishment clause upon a belief that organized religions are not “true” religions. IMO that statement showed such extreme prejudice as to completely invalidate the decision, which was flimsy enough to begin with. He got so much flak over the statement that to my knowledge he never repeated it.

  24. Larry, I’m afraid everybody here realizes that you have poor reasoning skills, ever since you failed at refuting my Satan-wrote-the-Bible theory. That’s why they’re not giving you much respect. You can earn their respect by refuting my theory. Heck, I think I’d be impressed, too. Sadly, my theory is pretty much bulletproof. Do you want me to share the updated version with you? If so, just let me know. Stay groovy.

  25. Ben Says:
    March 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Larry, I’m afraid everybody here realizes that you have poor reasoning skills………….

    Hey Ben, you’re barely figuring that out?

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