The Texas Republican Party has long trumpeted a defense of “local control” for communities and school districts against what it sees as the abusive authority of federal and state government. In fact, the state party’s official platform makes it explicit, particularly when it comes to public education:

We support school choice and believe that quality education is best achieved by encouraging parental involvement, protecting parental rights, and maximizing local independent school district control. District superintendents and their employees should be made solely accountable to their locally elected boards. We support sensible consolidation of local school districts. We encourage local ISDs to consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of accepting federal education money.

But State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, a ringleader of the board’s far-right faction, thinks local communities don’t know how to run their own school districts. Here’s what he had to say at a candidate forum on Monday:

“Everyone likes to say ‘local control,’ but left unchecked, sometimes people don’t always do the best jobs.”

Bradley has served on the state board since the 1990s and is seeking re-election this year. He certainly hasn’t been shy over the years… Read More

So what's with the dishonest campaign to remove from office a State Board of Education member who had the gall to challenge -- successfully -- the re-election of a prominent member of the state board's far-right faction in 2010? Just another example of the far right's contempt for Texas voters. We're talking about Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant who defeated Don "Somebody's Gotta Stand Up to Experts" McLeroy in last year's GOP primary for the District 9 state board seat. McLeroy, a College Station dentist and self-identified "young Earth creationist," had served as Gov. Rick Perry's state board chairman from 2007 to 2009 and led efforts to dumb down instruction on evolution in public school science classes. Ratliff's victory over McLeroy infuriated other far-right board members and their supporters. But because voters clearly preferred a common-sense approach to education over McLeroy's repeated efforts to promote his own personal beliefs in public schools, Ratliff's critics have adopted a legal strategy to get him thrown off the board. They claim Texas law forbids Ratliff from serving on the board because he is a registered lobbyist. But that prohibition applies only to lobbyists who are paid to work on business related to the board's operations. Ratliff has pointed out repeatedly that he does not. In January, to settle the matter, Ratliff asked then-Chairwoman Gail Lowe -- a member of the state board's far-right faction -- to seek an opinion from the Texas attorney general on his eligibility to serve on the board. Ratliff also asked the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office to determine whether he was breaking the law. Last week Attorney General Greg Abbott's office released an official opinion on the matter. That followed a finding from the Public Integrity Unit last March. Neither document says what the board's far-right members wanted to hear. Read More

Kate Alexander of the Austin American-Statesman has a story about how anti-Muslim bigotry almost derailed a major public school budget bill last week, nearly forcing the Texas Legislature into another special session. Prodded by anti-Muslim hysteria from right-wing activists (like the folks at Texas Eagle Forum), a number of House members voted against the budget because of concerns that Harmony Public Schools -- a successful charter school network -- supposedly has ties to radical Muslims from Turkey. Alexander reports that far-right lawmakers fear the schools are being used to indoctrinate American students: State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, requested an investigation of Harmony. He said Harmony teaches Islamic culture, and "you cannot distinguish Islamic culture from their religion. Where there is smoke, you should look into it." But look who came to the defense of Harmony schools: State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna: "There is a lot of misinformation, a certain level of fear and a small helping of bigotry that needs to go away," said State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont. Bradley said he would be the "first to sound the alarm" if there were anything to be alarmed about. But the board has not received substantive complaints from parents of the 16,000 children that attend any of the 33 Harmony campuses across the state, he said. "The only thing these guys are guilty of are high scores and being Turkish," Bradley said. Excuse us for laughing at the idea that David Bradley opposes anti-Muslim bigotry. Read More

The Texas State Board of Education is about to take up a proposed resolution attacking Islam and claiming that social studies textbooks are anti-Christian. TFN Insider will keep you updated on progress. 9:53 a.m. - We notice that board members Barbara Cargill and Don McLeroy have been going through world history textbooks currently used in Texas publics schools. Cargill has them stacked at her desk. We anticipate that she and McLeroy will use examples from those books to try to prove that they reflect an anti-Christian, pro-Islamic bias. But those textbooks were approved for Texas schools by this board in 2002, and social conservatives at the time were very happy. Why? Because, as news reports from the time explain, they were able to force publishers to make numerous changes, including the addition of positive references to Christianity and the deletion of neutral or positive references to Islam. From a Houston Chronicle article dated Oct. 30, 2002 (now archived on a conservative Christian website): The discussion of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., by Muslim extremists was closely read by many reviewers. Raborn criticized a passage in the Glencoe/McGraw-Hill book that discussed how Osama bin Laden's instructions to his followers to kill Americans was not supported by the Quran, which tells soldiers to show civilians kindness and justice. "This is going to great length to put a positive light on Muslim teachings considering other passages in the Quran. Either leave this material out alltogether or present more balance," Raborn said in written comments submitted to the state board. The publisher replaced the deleted passage with a statement that al-Qaeda's anti-American beliefs were not shared by all Muslims. "The attacks on the United States horrified people around the world, including millions of Muslims who live in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere," the book now reads. Other examples are found in an Oct. 27, 2002, Fort Worth Star-Telegram article in our files (apparently archived on a subscription-only website). The article notes that publishers were forced to delete this passage from one textbooks, World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures: "But many more other teachings in the Quran, such as the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for their families, govern their daily lives." Another textbook, World Civilizations: The Global Experience, added this passage: "Christianity, for example, appealed to educated people, as it adopted a complex set of ideas about God and life. Its spirituality and its promise of eternal life also appealed to many other groups." That article summed up the changes: "Some new Texas textbooks no longer teach that the Quran stresses honesty and honor, that glaciers moved over the earth millions of years ago or that Communists felt their system of government offered workers more security. " The reference to glaciers was changed in one textbook to "in the distant past" because creationists insist that these rivers of ice could not have moved over the earth millions of years ago when, they argued, earth didn't even exist. Conservatives quoted by the article expressed their delight with the changes they forced publishers to make throughout their textbooks. Here's what Chris Patterson of the far-right Texas Public Policy Foundation had to say: "For the most part, we are delighted with the changes. The publishers made very substantive changes in adding content and correcting errors." Today, however, the State Board of Education's bloc of social conservatives claim that social studies textbooks the board adopted eight years ago are anti-Christian and pro-Islam. 10 a.m. - Gail Lowe, state board chair, brings up the resolution. She says this resolution is just about the balanced treatment of "divergent religious groups." Really? Then why does the resolution specifically attack Islam and make untrue claims about coverage of Islam and Christianity in the standards? 10:01: Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is testifying. We'll reproduce her testimony on here later. She's making a sharp criticism of this inflammatory resolution: "It's hard not to conclude that the misleading claims in this resolution are not the result of ignorance or are instead the result of fear-mongering." She says: pass a neutral resolution that calls for on publishers to treat all religions fairly and accurately. Attacking Islam in the resolution is unnecessary and divisive. Read More

We continue to marvel at the nostalgia some -- such as certain members of the Texas State Board of Education -- seem to have for the Confederacy of the American Civil War. This is 2010, after all. Isn't it about time to let go of the misguided notion of the  "Lost Cause"? This nostalgia, after all, is the product of a political perspective that sees southern history in some glorified way that grossly distorts reality. For example, in new social studies curriculum standards adopted in May, the Texas state board deliberately downplayed the central role that slavery played in causing the Civil War. The new standards also require students to study the ideas in Confederate President Jefferson Davis' inaugural address. That address is full of excuses for southern secession but includes not one word about slavery despite the abundance of historical evidence showing that the bitter divide over slavery led to secession and war. State board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, even won approval for a standard requiring that Texas history students learn about the state's Confederate war heroes and Civil War battles. Now we see the conservative magazine Human Events is promoting what it bills as a "myth-busting" book -- The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. According to the magazine, the book offers "a rousing guide to the great war that shaped America -- and to the spirit of the Old South that we need so much today." Read More

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.@pastors4txkids are incredible advocates for public schools. Definitely recommend a follow! twitter.com/pastors4…