Live-Blogging the Final Science Materials Vote

We’re back in the hearing room for the final vote, which is beginning now.

9:24 – The board jumps right in to a discussion of the disputed Holt McDougal product. A TEA spokesperson clarifies that they could find NO documentation to substantiate that multiple review panel members signed-off on the alleged “error” list presented yesterday. It appears that a single member of this panel is responsible for these charges, and it does not reflect a consensus opinion of the panel.

9:27 – Important note: TFN has obtained a copy of letter addressed to the state board signed by five members of the official biology review panels. The letter challenges the alleged “errors” identified in the report presented to the board late yesterday, concluding:

“Holt McDougal’s supplement, as well as the publisher’s response to the reviewers, accurately describes the current state of the science, satisfies the TEKS, and matches the other supplements already approved by the board on Thursday.”

9:28 – Board member Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, moves to strike the disputed “error” list in the Holt McDougal product. Heated discussion ensues.

9:31 – Here is a summary of what is going on: the alleged “errors” identified in the Holt McDougal product appear to originate from a single member of the review panel, apparently David Shormann (a self-identified young earth creationist). TEA staff confirms that other members of that panel did NOT sign off on the alleged “errors.” That means the board yesterday voted to force Holt to make changes based on the objections of a single person. Dr. Soto’s motion would undo that vote and allow Holt McDougal to proceed with their proposed submission without making these disputed changes (which would insert junk science into the submission).

9:40 – Board members are reacting with alarm to this revelation. A number of board members make the point that to force these disputed changes might actually create errors in these materials. Precisely.

9:45 – David Bradley, R-Buna, has some nerve. He’s lecturing the board about how substantive changes shouldn’t be made on the final Friday of the meeting. Wow. We would remind Mr. Bradley that he personally participated in massive revisions to social studies standards (2010), science standards (2009) and English-Language Arts standards (2008).

9:50 – Soto speaks to his motion. He makes the reasonable point that the board should not be adjudicating technical matters biology, since they are not experts in this area. But when they find an undisputed mistake in the process like this, they must take corrective action. The board should not force changes on a publisher that do not represent a consensus opinion of the review committees.

9:56 – The board votes to take a 15 minute recess. Stay tuned.

10:19 – We’re back. David Bradley is reading a statement from Holt McDougal, saying they will respect the decisions of the board. No surprises there.

10:21 – Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, suggests that Dr. Soto withdraw his motion, and allow the board to approve the Holt McDougal submission contingent upon changes approved by the Education Commissioner. This would appear to be a compromise to allow the publisher to make reasonable, accurate changes — not the political changes suggested by Shormann. Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, speaks against. He wants the publisher to make the changes Shormann advocates. The board is discussing.

10:25 – Soto calls for a vote on his motion to strike all the disputed “errors” identified by Shormann. Mercer moves to amend  Soto’s motion by exempting the materials pertinent to TEKS 7A (animation “Similarities in Microbiology” on pages 4-5 of the disputed “error” report) — this is one of Shormann’s bogus errors. Mercer wants this particular change to be forced on Holt McDougal.

10:30 – Chairwoman Cargill announces that they are separating these into two separate motions. Soto decides to withdraw his motion, so they can take up Craig’s compromise.

10:32 – Craig immediately moves to accept the Holt McDougal submission contingent upon rewording the disputed sections to the satisfaction of the Education Commissioner. Bradley speaks against.

10:33 – Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, speaks in favor. Commissioner Scott clarifies that he will look at these disputed issues very carefully and ensure the changes are accurate and conform to the curriculum standards. We understand that the commissioner intends to seek out the advice from legitimate science scholars and teachers in vetting these changes. Terri Leo, R-Spring, doesn’t like this because it prevents the board from monkeying around with the product to insert bogus creationist arguments. Mercer has the same objection.

10:41 – Call for a record vote. Craig’s amendment passes unanimously. The far-right bloc complained, but they didn’t have the courage of their convictions.

10:44 — Craig moves on a procedural vote to reject the “intelligent design” submission by International Databases. His motion is approved unanimously. These two votes represent a definitive victory for science and the students of Texas — and a complete defeat of the far-right’s two-year campaign to dumb-down instruction on evolution in Texas schools. We’ll have a press statement shortly.

15 thoughts on “Live-Blogging the Final Science Materials Vote

  1. TFN: thanks for staying on top of this for us! I know I shouldn’t be shocked by the behavior of some board members and the lone panel member, but I just have no (publishable) words at this point. Flabbergasted.

  2. I’m just glad we have a few more reasonable people on the board than at this time last year. I can read these live-blogs with a little hope that they won’t end in disaster.

  3. lol! The commissioner is going to get an education in how creationist arguments work. This could have long-term benefits.

  4. I’m glad this ended well, I was kind of freaked out yesterday as I watched the live stream!

  5. It’s a little depressing reading the summary of the debate. At least with a unanimous vote to allow a scholarly review the information will hopefully remain free of IDC content. Now if we can avoid hearing “International Databases” during the rest of the session it might be a reasonable day for education in Texas.

  6. Wow!!! Unanimous rejection of the intelligent design submission? ID LLC did themselves no favors submitting such a shoddy product, hopefully this will tarnish any future submissions as well. You know DI and other groups will be working to put together something that looks much more polished and professional.

  7. i am still very interested in learning more about how shormann even got to the table, much less how his personal views were even briefly though to be the input of the review comission.

    anyone know more about the process & who was behind both these manuevers?

  8. 3 cheers for common sense! The amazing thing is that, with Berlanga missing, the social conservatives only needed 7 votes to uphold yesterday’s decision to force Holt to make anti-evolution changes. They didn’t have them!! There seems to be a solid 8-person sensible majority (plus Berlanga, making 9 when she shows up), leaving the creationist block stymied.

    This bodes VERY well for the next 1.5 years.

  9. My opinion is that Rick Perry told the SBOE Chair to not create waves with evolution because he is going to run for President and doesn’t need give the Democrats another campaign issue to use against him.

    I think Perry told the far right members of the Board to knock it off.

  10. My question is, why was Holt McDougal singled out in this? Are they the only ones who have material objectionable to creationists? If so, the rest of the materials would seem to be presenting flawed science by the omission.

  11. What a difference an election cycle makes! Thanks to TFN for your excellent coverage.

  12. Kudos to Craig for crafting a compromise both politically and (knock on wood) educationally acceptable. Getting unanimous votes on both motions was remarkable.

    Jed, Shormann was appointed by Cargill. The results of the appointment are almost enough for me to shift her classification in my informal taxonomy, but not quite.

    I didn’t have a chance to listen to the audio. I did note the SBOE Instruction committee nomination of Farney by Clayton; and from the tweet, Clayton also seems to have been one of those who noted the board forcing changes might create errors in these materials. Farney doesn’t seem to have said much that was noted herself. I’ll have to check the audio archive to see if there’s any more hints about her balance.

    On the other hand, Mercer seems to be stepping up to take up the mantle of “Very Silly Party” leadership that the departures of Dunbar and McLeroy have left vacant, though he seems to have a less intensely burning stupid. (Sorry, but I really couldn’t come up with a diplomatic way of putting that.)

    So, for the latest update of my Pythonesque classification, current faction memberships appear as…
    Very Silly Party: Mercer
    Silly Party: Lowe, Cargill, Leo, Bradley, Garza
    Slightly Silly Party: Farney, Hardy
    Slightly Sensible Party: Clayton, Craig, Ratliff
    Sensible Party: Allen, Berlanga, Knight, Soto

    This is, of course, purely my own opinion; it might, however, make a useful mnemonic metaphor to quickly explain the political layout to those who’ve seen the Election Night Special skit from the Flying Circus and are strongly inclined to be Sensible Party allies. (I fear it’s not diplomatic enough for general use.)

  13. abb3w, I found Farney, Hardy, Clayton, Craig, and Ratliff to be just as sensible as the Democrats on science for the most part. Maybe not on social studies, but we will see. Craig and Hardy supported science to a good extent in 2009, but they did vote for some stupid amendments when searching for a compromise with the radicals; that’s how we got some of the bad science standards in the first place. There have never been more than seven radical religious right Republicans on the Board–they always needed to pick up one more vote and they were able to get it from Hardy, Miller, or Craig. On the science materials, these five Republicans voted correctly this week.

    For science, at least, the Board now has nine SB members who will support it. In her Eagle Forum talk, Cargill mentioned that now her faction has only “six real Christian Conservatives” (translated, this is six radical fundamentalist young Earth Creationist Christians). She is correct. They would need to get two votes now and they could not get them this time with science.

    When social studies materials come up next year, all this may change. Pat Hardy was just as bad as Dunbar, Leo, Lowe, Mercer, Bradley, etc. when it came to distorting history standards, much to my disgust. So was Miller. Bob Craig was the only Republican who resisted joining in the destruction although he voted for the final adoption (10-5). I can’t say how Ratliff, Clayton, and Farney will vote on those materials, but there will be five votes to adopt good materials from Craig and the four remaining Democrats. If these three new Republicans join them, they will have an 8-person majority. That would be something to see.

  14. Steve, I agree that those in the “slightly” groups do vote (what I consider) sensibly some of the time. However, as you note, they also have some (ibid) silly votes in their past. Thus, the degree of nuance between silly, slightly silly, slightly sensible, and sensible, based on my assessment of the likelihood of voting (opcit) silly-versus-sensible.

    As to Pat Hardy, though she claimed slavery wasn’t the cause of the Civil War (“states rights!”) and thus at least slightly silly, my impression she was overall distinctly less silly than McLeroy and most of the other Republicans in the social studies debate, calling them on several points.