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Voucher Bill Sneaks Through Committee At Closed Meeting On House Floor FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 3, 2003

Austin, TX Chairman Kent Grusendorf called an impromtu meeting of the House Public Education Committee at his desk on the House floor this morning and hurriedly passed out his controversial voucher bill, H.B. 2465.

For the next two years, H.B. 2465 would create a private school voucher program in Texas school districts with more than 40,000 students, in which a majority of the students are eligible for the federal free and reduced price lunch program.

Starting in 2005, the voucher “pilot” program would be open to any school district and any child, thus making the more than 4 million public and charter school school students in Texas 1,040 school districts eligible for a voucher.

“It’s no surprise that this bill was snuck through at a closed meeting on the floor, given the unpopularity of vouchers and the drastic nature of this bill,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates against vouchers.… Read More

Bill Dismantling Education Standards Heads To House; Ends Class Size, Curriculum, Teacher Standards At Schools FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 2, 2003

Austin, TX Student learning would suffer under proposed rollbacks of education standards, said the Texas Freedom Network. Legislation passed by a House committee last night would exempt some school districts from virtually all state education standards.

“This new push would eliminate education standards for class size, curriculum and teachers that have proven to improve student performance,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors public education issues in Texas. “Putting kids and education first means improving schools, not abandoning our commitment to proven education standards in order to save money.”

House Bill 973 by Rep. Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) would make “exemplary” rated school districts and campuses subject only to a fraction of the laws governing open-enrollment charter schools. H.B. 973 would exempt these districts from state standards for class size, curriculum, teacher certification and training, minimum teacher qualifications, parental rights, dropout prevention programs, after-school programs, remedial and accelerated instruction, educator rights and benefits, school day length, school year length, assessment of students with disabilities, and some anti-discrimination provisions.… Read More

Bush Faith-Based Plan Undermines Safety & Science FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 28, 2003Austin, TX The President’s proposal to divert millions of dollars to faith-based substance abuse programs would rollback decades of scientific practice and jeopardize people in need, according to the watchdog group the Texas Freedom Network.

“The President’s proposal to fund religious drug treatment programs would turn back the medical clock to the 19th Century,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, which has monitored the Texas Faith-Based Initiative crafted by then-Governor Bush.

“The President values programs that say ‘We can pray you out of your addiction’ more than programs that say ‘We will treat your addiction with counseling, medical treatment and spirituality’,” said Smoot. “Even more outrageous is his insistence that taxpayers foot the bill for this dangerous approach.”

“The faith-based treatment centers the President wants to fund say that addiction is a sin, not a disease. They believe addiction should be treated with worship and prayer exclusively,” said Smoot. These programs, like Victory Fellowship and Teen Challenge, have been openly hostile to scientifically-based treatments and have repeatedly failed to meet state health and safety standards in Texas.… Read More

Bush Faith-Based Action Follows Disastrous Texas Model FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 12, 2002

Washington, DC As President Bush turned to executive orders today to implement much of his beleaguered Faith-Based Initiative, advocates from his home state say the same approach had disastrous consequences in Texas.

In a report released earlier this year, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund detailed the negative results of the Faith-Based Initiative developed by then-Governor George W. Bush, which has served as the model for his national Faith-Based Initiative.

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund points out that, at both the national and state level, George W. Bush has:

· Directed key government agencies to increase contracting with faith-based social service providers; · Diverted public funds to religious social service programs; · Deregulated certain faith-based providers; · Established an advisory body to shepherd his initiative through the public policy process and brainstorm ways of bolstering faith-based programs; · Created faith-based offices or liaisons within key government agencies to review agency policies, identify perceived ‘regulatory barriers,’ and increase faith-based partnerships; and · Promoted the Faith-Based Initiative through both legislative and regulatory means.… Read More

Far Right’s Changes To Textbooks Prompt Thousands Of Outraged Letters To State, Publishers Opposing Textbook Censorship FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 12, 2002

AUSTIN, TX Two days before the State Board of Education votes on proposed Social Studies texts, dozens of people gathered for a press conference on the steps of the Texas Capitol to protest changes made to those books by the Religious Right.

“We’re here today to deliver literally thousands of postcards from Texas parents, educators, businesspeople, students, religious leaders and people from every walk of life who oppose the far right’s effort to censor needed information from Texas textbooks,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors the Religious Right.

The postcards were sent from people across Texas and addressed to State Board of Education members, Education Commissioner Felipe Alanis, textbooks publishers, and legislators, with a message urging them to fight textbook censorship.

“Mainstream Texans have had enough of far-right groups pushing their personal religious and political beliefs into Texas public school classrooms,” said Smoot.

Susan Moffat, whose 5th grade daughter attends Lee Elementary in Austin, told the crowd gathered why she got involved in the textbook review process this year.… Read More

Texas Freedom Network

Early voting is underway for the Nov. 5 elections. Go vote, Texas!…