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Publishers Resist Political Pressure To Alter Biology Textbooks FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 29, 2003

Austin, Texas In this year’s battle over the teaching of evolution in public school science classrooms, publishers of Biology textbooks withstood a political push aimed at forcing them to rewrite the books. Now the controversy moves back to the State Board of Education, which will vote to approve or reject textbooks on November 6 and 7.

Yesterday the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the changes to Biology textbooks proposed by publishers in response to public testimony on the books.

Several organizations, led by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group dedicated to promoting “intelligent design,” have undertaken a well-funded campaign to pressure publishers to make the books more critical of the theory of evolution. Records released yesterday by TEA indicate the publishers resisted this push.

“In keeping with their commitment to provide students with the best possible science education, Biology textbook publishers have stood up to political pressure,” said Samantha Smoot, President of the Texas Freedom Network. “We applaud publishers for doing what’s right for Texas kids, despite the demands of far-right interest groups.”… Read More

Business Leaders, Clergy, Scientists Say No To Censorship FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 20, 2003

Austin, Texas With one day left to sign up to testify on proposed Biology textbooks, a group of citizens launched a campaign they say protects the best interests of science, religion and business.

The proposed textbooks have drawn fire nationally from an organized group that wants their creationist perspective included in the books. But today, a group of citizens announced the launch of Stand Up for Science, a grassroots campaign encouraging people to speak out against the push to undermine the study of evolution.

Over 50 Texans gathered at the William B. Travis Building, home of the Texas Education Agency, to show support for keeping good science in Biology textbooks.

“Our economy is increasingly driven by science and technology, and to undermine the study of science threatens our children’s ability to compete for jobs and our state’s ability to compete for business,” said David Vom Lehn, a network systems engineer and former technical recruiter.… Read More

Committee Substituted Voucher Bill Sneaks Through Committee At Closed Meeting On House Floor FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 14, 2003

Austin, TX Chairman Kent Grusendorf called an impromptu meeting of the House Public Education Committee at his desk on the House floor this morning and hurriedly passed out a modified Senate Bill that includes a provision for a pilot Private School Voucher Program.

The original version of S.B. 976 establishes a Middle College Education Pilot Program for students at-risk of dropping out, but a committee substitute, offered by Chairman Grusendorf, was rewritten and hastily presented at the last minute to committee members.

“This is just another desperate move to push an unpopular idea that would harm Texas’ public schools,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates against vouchers.

This is the second time a voucher bill has passed through Chairman Grusendorf’s committee at a meeting held at his desk. On April 3, Grusendorf called an unplanned meeting and passed out his controversial voucher bill, H.B. 2465.… Read More

Groups Decry “Home-Rule” Bill That Eliminates Class Size, Curriculum, All Education Standards FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 28, 2003

Austin, TX Student learning would suffer under proposed rollbacks of education standards, said a coalition of fifteen public interest groups on Monday.

“While public school finance and the $1.4 billion education cuts are grabbing headlines, the biggest threat to public schools is making a stealth advance through the legislature,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors public education issues. “House Bill 859 would eliminate virtually all state education standards and wipe out decades of academic progress in one fell swoop.”

Scheduled for a vote in the Texas House on Monday, House Bill 859 would allow any Texas school district to convert itself to “home-rule” and thus be exempt from virtually all state education standards, including class size, curriculum, teacher certification and training, minimum teacher qualifications, parental rights, dropout prevention, after-school programs, remedial and accelerated instruction, educator rights and benefits, school day length, school year length, assessment of students with disabilities, and even some anti-discrimination and religious freedom provisions.

“We’re here to take a stand against House Bill 859, one of the most wide-reaching and potentially devastating education… Read More

Texas House Votes Down Dangerous “Virtual” Schools Bill; Senate Approves Similar Measure FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 23, 2003

Austin, TX Public education narrowly avoided a major blow today when the Texas House voted not to create a “virtual” charter schools program, said the Texas Freedom Network.

“Last week, the House slashed $1.4 billion in state education funding, and yet some politicians have continued to push initiatives that would siphon billions more out of public schools,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network.

“Last week, state leaders said we needed to tighten state purse strings and the House slashed state education spending by $1.4 billion,” said Smoot. “Why these same leaders are now pushing expensive new education programs is beyond me.”

“This ‘virtual’ schools program is a boondoggle the state is right to avoid,” said Smoot.… Read More

The New York Times

Breaking News: The writer and activist Larry Kramer has died at 84. His work to shock the U.S. into seeing AIDS as a public health emergency helped shift policy in the 1980s and '90s. “One of America’s most valuable troublemakers,” Susan Sontag called him.