With a public school enrollment of more than 5 million, Texas has an increasingly diverse public education system. Unfortunately, that public education system is also the target of politicians seeking to privatize our neighborhood public schools and push a culture-war agenda in the classroom.

To that end, the Texas Freedom Network – while continuing to fight private school voucher legislation at the Capitol – has conducted groundbreaking research into what is being taught in classrooms on subjects like sex education and religion.

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The Latest on Education

The right’s contempt for facts is especially evident when it comes to issues like climate change and evolution. Here’s some of the science denialism we heard from the right on in 2015. (Click here for previous posts on what we heard from the right in 2015.)

“I’m going to punt on that one as well. That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another. I love the evolution of trade in Wisconsin.”

– Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, responding to questions about his thoughts on evolution during his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

“No, it hasn’t changed my mind. We all have the same evidence, and it’s just a matter of how you interpret it. There’s no dates stamped on these things.”

– Canadian Edgar Nernberg, who serves on the board of a creationist museum that promotes the idea that Earth is only about 6,000 years old, explaining his personal discovery of 60-million-year-old fish fossil.

“Humans, horses, and other animals do not use similar facial muscles and communicative expressions because of shared ancestry, but they do share a common Designer and so we would expect to see similarities in living things — and… Read More

Last June, just before Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, as the new chair of the State Board of Education, outgoing chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, tried to get the SBOE more authority. Today the Texas Attorney General’s Office slapped down that power grab.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office released a formal opinion saying that the SBOE does not have authority under Texas law to set rules for how local school districts adopt textbooks. Cargill and her allies on and off the board had hoped the AG would say otherwise. They’re upset that local school districts can adopt textbooks that the state board doesn’t approve. So they wanted to make it harder for school districts to do so by putting in place a variety of rules to follow.

Paxton’s opinion explains that the Legislature has not given the state board authority to set such rules. The opinion is available here.

We just sent out the following statement.

“We’re certainly pleased to see the attorney general agree that this attempted power grab by certain board members wasn’t supported by state law. It’s important to remember that the board just last month stubbornly refused to establish even… Read More

With all of the damage culture warriors on the State Board of Education have done — or tried to do — to the education of Texas public school students in their science and history classrooms, it can be easy to forget what they’ve also done on sex education. Today the online news magazine Slate posted the above video, which examines how two high school health textbooks from the same publisher address sex education — one submitted for adoption in Texas in 2004 and the other a decade earlier. That abstinence-only textbook from 2004, which doesn’t include a shred of information on contraception, remains in classrooms today.

Slate focused this video on the health textbooks from just one publisher, Holt, Rinehart and Winston. But publisher Glencoe/McGraw-Hill’s health textbooks were also abstinence-only. Holt and Glencoe essentially split the Texas health textbook market between them in 2004-05.

The State Board of Education hasn’t set an adoption date for the next generation of health textbooks for Texas public schools. We’re likely about five years away, at least. Meanwhile, Texas has the  one of the highest teen birth rates among the nation’s 50 states — the fifth highest, in fact, as of 2013. And the Texas Legislature still refuses to encourage school districts… Read More

Sort of. From Associated Press:

Alabama is updating its decade-old science standards to require that students understand evolution and learn about climate change, topics that can still be controversial in the Bible Belt state.

Educators say the new rules — part of a major change that includes more experimentation and hands-on instruction and less lecturing — don’t require that students believe in evolution or accept the idea that climate is changing globally.

But public school students will be required for the first time to understand the theory of evolution. And teachers will be required to address climate change, which wasn’t a focus the last time the state set science standards in 2005.

Unfortunately, Alabama still requires textbooks to cast doubt on evolution. From the same story:

Textbooks used in Alabama science classes have carried a disclaimer sticker for years stating that evolution is a “controversial theory,” not fact, and the new course of study doesn’t change the warnings, which were advocated by Christian conservatives.

Back in 2009, the State Board of Education in Texas approved new curriculum standards that creationists hoped would force publishers to include discredited arguments attacking evolution in their new textbooks. But the Texas Freedom… Read More

Pastors for Texas Children, a pro-public education group, is warning that the creation of a “parallel private system of education” funded with tax dollars — through vouchers or other schemes — would violate the Texas Constitution and harm the religious schools proponents of such a system want to fund.

That warning came in a brief the group filed on Tuesday with the Texas Supreme Court, which just took up a major case on whether the state’s current system for funding public education meets constitutional requirements.

The Pastors of Texas Children brief follows a brief from a religious-right group, the Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council, which argued that the state’s failure to give taxpayer dollars to sectarian schools is evidence of an anti-religion bias and threatens religious freedom. Pastors for Texas Children flatly rejects such arguments, warning that such schemes would actually harm religious schools:

“The last thing our fine public schools need is more dollars drained away from them, and the last thing our fine private schools need is the government intervention and oversight that will inevitably and necessarily follow the public money they receive.”

The Pastors for Texas Children brief also notes the lack of evidence showing that students who use private school vouchers… Read More

Progress Texas

Happy 4th of July, Texas! 🇺🇸 We cannot stop fighting until the freedoms this day is meant to celebrate are a reality for all of us. #BlackLivesMatter #FourthofJuly progresstexas.org/bl…