Rives Campaign Still Not Telling the Truth

by Dan Quinn

We told you last month how Randy Rives is playing fast and loose with the truth in his campaign to unseat Texas State Board of Education incumbent Bob Craig in tomorrow’s Republican Primary. Yesterday Rives’ campaign continued to distort the truth on a key issue from the candidate’s past — the decision by the Ector County (Odessa)  Independent School District board of trustees, then headed by Rives, to adopt a Bible course curriculum that got the district sued.

Writing as a representative of Rives’ campaign, Cyndi Ortiz criticized the San Angelo Standard-Times for supposedly getting the facts wrong in recently describing Rives’ role in the Bible course debate. The newspaper had written that Rives’ “defining act” as a school board trustee was “leading implementation of a Bible course whose curriculum was so flawed that it had to be pulled.”

Ortiz claims that the district replaced the problematic curriculum on its own, not because of a lawsuit filed  by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of eight Odessa parents. Those parents had argued that the curriculum was unconstitutional because it promoted a literal, fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of the Bible over all others. Ortiz disingenously counters:

Randy and one other board member went through mediation. However, no agreement was reached.

The board decided, even though there was nothing wrong with the current curriculum, they would review and accept a new curriculum presented to them. The proposed curriculum was presented as the curriculum that could be used in Bible courses used in other Texas districts. It also would continue to allow the students to use their own version of the Bible as the course textbook.

The ACLU dropped its suit once the new curriculum was accepted. The Ector County Board’s criteria of allowing students to use their own Bible as the textbook was met with this curriculum.

At no time did the court, the school board or any other official authority assert or prove the curriculum was flawed or inaccurate.

It’s bizarre to argue that the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement but then acknowledge that the lawsuit was dropped after the school district did precisely what the plaintiffs wanted — for the district to stop using the flawed curriculum. From the New York Times story about the lawsuit:

As part of the settlement, the district agreed to use a new curriculum developed by a committee of local educators.

“It’s great that the two parties were able to come together and work out a solution,” the district’s interim superintendent, Hector Mendez, said in a statement.

The facts are pretty simple: Rives rammed through a Bible course curriculum that was deeply flawed (something he and other board members had already been warned about). Local parents then sued because they thought it was wrong to force taxpayers to pay for a public school class that promoted the religious views of some — primarily fundamentalist Protestants — over those of everybody else. To end the lawsuit, the district agreed to change the curriculum to one that didn’t violate the religious freedom of students and taxpayers.

And all of that — including the wasting of tax dollars on the first curriculum and in responding to the lawsuit — could have been avoided if Rives hadn’t been more interested in promoting his own ideological views over the education of schoolchildren in Odessa. Now he wants to take his reckless ways to Austin as a member of the State Board of Education.