Does Texas State Rep. Steve Toth's Word Mean Much?

by Dan Quinn

UPDATE: The Texas House gave final passage to SB 1406 this morning. The bill now goes to Gov. Perry for his signature or veto.

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State Rep. Steve Toth’s commitment on Monday to pull down the CSCOPE bill he is sponsoring in the Texas House of Representatives had a shelf life of less than 12 hours. So the anti-CSCOPE witch hunt continues.

Rep. Toth, R-The Woodlands, made his commitment when he spoke at state Sen. Dan Patrick’s Monday morning press conference on the CSCOPE curriculum management system. Sen. Patrick announced at that press conference that the state’s Education Service Centers had agreed to stop providing lessons in CSCOPE, which is used by nearly 900 public school districts to cover the state’s curriculum standards. Rep. Toth then spoke at the press conference, saying he would pull down SB 1406, which would put CSCOPE’s lessons under review by the State Board of Education. SB 1406, authored by Sen. Patrick, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee, had already passed the Senate.

But Monday evening, Rep. Toth decided not to withdraw SB 1406, and the House passed it on second reading. The bill should come up today for final passage.

Rep. Toth told a reporter that he changed his mind because he had misunderstood what the Education Service Centers had agreed to do:

“I was under the impression it (CSCOPE) was going away. And then after I spoke, (Kyle Wargo, the executive director of Regional Service Center 17 in Lubbock and a CSCOPE board member) spoke and said they’ll continue to serve the school and CSCOPE will still be available. That’s not what I was under the impression of when I said that.”

First, as a general rule, it’s probably unwise to speak at a press conference about something you don’t fully understand. That’s especially true if you’re going to break your word when you finally think through the commitment you made. It’s also worth pointing out that CSCOPE’s critics on Monday were sending around emails claiming that they still had problems with the program, even suggesting that CSCOPE officials should face “legal repercussions.” Did those critics pressure Rep. Toth to break his word?

Second, d0es Rep. Toth want CSCOPE to go away completely? SB 1406 wouldn’t make that happen. It simply puts CSCOPE’s lessons under state board review. But if CSCOPE no longer has lessons, what will SB 1406 do? The answer to that question: nothing. It will be useless clutter in the Education Code.

But Rep. Toth apparently still sees the bill as a club to keep beating CSCOPE. The program includes a guide that helps teachers cover all of the curriculum standards passed by the State Board of Education. Does Rep. Toth want to take that tool away from school districts, too? Large school districts have the resources to write curriculum plans to cover those state standards, but smaller school districts don’t. The Education Service Centers created CSCOPE to meet that need.

It surely must be clear to most observers by now that CSCOPE’s critics won’t be satisfied until they have destroyed the program completely, even if it requires legislators like Rep. Toth to break their word.

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