House Rejects SBOE Sunset Bill

Will Republican legislators ever find the courage to get off their knees when they get pressure from far-right groups? Not today, it seems.

Just yesterday the Texas House approved on second reading House Bill 710, which would have made the Texas State Board of Education subject to periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. That vote was 74-68. But the House just voted down the measure on third reading, 71-73. Only one Republican crossed the aisle to vote for HB 710.

The vote came after religious conservatives — rallied by a virtual “who’s who” of right-wing pressure groups — bombarded House offices with e-mails and phone calls opposing this common-sense bill. That pressure campaign didn’t surprise us — far-right groups have been thrilled that the state board is controlled by ideologues who keep dragging public schools into the culture wars. But the vote should be terribly disappointing for parents and other taxpayers who are tired of extremists using the State Board of Education as a playground for promoting ideological agendas.

A Texas Freedom Network press release about today’s House vote follows the jump.

TFN President Strongly Condemns House Rejection of SBOE Sunset Bill Today

Vote Put Party Loyalty above Interests of Texas Families and Schoolchildren

May 6, 2009

The president of the Texas Freedom Network is strongly condemning the failure of the Texas House today to hold the State Board of Education accountable for flaunting its contempt for state laws, its own rules and open processes while putting personal and political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren.

On an almost entirely party-line vote, the Texas House today refused to pass on third reading House Bill 710 by Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs. HB 710 would have put the State Board of Education under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. The vote was 71-73. One Republican voted for the bill. All of the “no” votes were from Republicans. The House had approved the bill 74-68 on second reading just yesterday.

In voting almost entirely along partisan lines today on what should never have been a partisan issue, House Republicans told parents that the quality of their children’s education is less important than party loyalty, TFN President Kathy Miller said. The state board is currently controlled by a 10-5 Republican majority.

“This was a common-sense, good-government bill, and House members who voted against it totally ignored the interests of parents and other taxpayers,” Miller said. “No wonder so many people are disgusted by politics. There was no reason to oppose this bill except to bow to the demands of pressure groups that keep dragging our public schools into the culture wars.”

The rejection of HB 710 comes after years in which board members have:
• been indicted for violations of the state’s law on open meetings,
• ignored state laws limiting the board’s authority to censor and reject textbooks,
• called public education a “tool of perversion,” “tyrannical” and “unconstitutional,”
• bragged about “spanking” teachers who dared to come before them with concerns about the school curriculum,
• questioned the religious faith of fellow board members and others who support teaching about evolution,
• recklessly rejected the strong and repeated advice of renowned Texas scientists, including Nobel laureates, by dumbing down the state’s science curriculum, and
• appointed to a social studies “expert” panel just last month ideologues who have spoken before white supremacist groups, called on Christian parents to remove their children from public schools and attacked constitutional protections for religious freedom and separation of church and state.

HB 710 would have removed none of the state board’s authority. It would have required the Sunset Advisory Commission to review how and whether the state board functions as required by state law and its own rules, Miller said. It would also have provided a formal process for hearing concerns taxpayers have about the board. That opportunity was swept away by today’s partisan vote, Miller said.

“House members who voted against this bill today are going to have to explain to the parents in their districts why they refuse to hold accountable State Board of Education members who have made clear their contempt for public education and who have questioned the religious faith of anyone who disagrees with them,” Miller said. “The nearly 5 million Texas kids who attend public schools deserve less partisanship in guiding their education. They didn’t get it today.”

7 thoughts on “House Rejects SBOE Sunset Bill

  1. I’ve already called my local state rep’s office to let him know how disappointed I am. I’ve also called the Texas State Teachers Association to figure out why in the world an organization to which I pay dues is endorsing this gentleman. I evidently didn’t get his attention before the vote. I’ll make damned sure that I get it now.

  2. I have written notes to all my reps in the senate, house and SBOE and have not received a single acknowledgement. I think it all goes into the Great Bit Bucket.

  3. I am one of the members of the social studies TEKS revision committee, and I am thankful the Texas Freedom Network is keeping us informed of what is going on in the curriculum adoption process. It has been painful. Please release the rest of the names of the ‘experts’ who will be reviewing our work. Thank you for the information.

  4. Kimberly, I hope you remembered to include in the social studies TEKS that the US was founded as a Christian Nation and separation of church and state is a myth.

    If you forgot, don’t worry, the radicals on the SBOE will insert it for you.

  5. Kimberly, PHarvey,

    If both the TEKS committee and the SBOE somehow manage to leave out that the U.S. is actually a Christian theocracy, don’t worry, the republican lawmaker majority will simply pass a bill requiring that it be added to the textbooks. After all, this question for historians has been settled by simply making it part of the Texas republican platform.

    TFN: Whatever happened to the bill that would require the science TEKS to contain the “strengths and weaknesses” language?

    1. Joe asked: “Whatever happened to the bill that would require the science TEKS to contain the “strengths and weaknesses” language?”

      HB 4224 is dead in the water.