It’s always good to see folks in responsible positions refuse to play games with far-right fanatics who substitute ignorant, facts-free ideology for honest research and expertise. So we enjoyed reading a particular section of state District Judge John Dietz’s opinion on Thursday that the public school finance system in Texas violates the state Constitution.

The case is almost certainly headed to the Texas Supreme Court down the road. And Judge Dietz’s opinion is long — nearly 400 pages. But check out pages 335-336 of that opinion.

In his lengthy list of “Findings of Fact,” Judge Dietz rips into wild and unsubstantiated claims that the head of the right-wing, corporate-funded Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, made when he testified in the case last year. The Heartland Institute argues, among other things, that the overwhelming scientific evidence on the growing threat of global climate change is wrong. It also supports voucher schemes that take funding from neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools instead.

In his January 2013 testimony in the school finance base, Bast claimed that the Texas Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Program, a voucher scheme that failed to pass the Texas Legislature in 2011, would save the state about $2 billion over the first two years. As Dietz… Read More

Our friend Edd Doerr, president of Americans for Religious Liberty, has graciously granted permission for us to publish his review of Teachers versus the Public: What Americans Think about Schools and How to Fix Them, a new publication from Brookings Institute Press. The publication, authored by Paul E. Peterson, Michael Henderson and Martin R. West, purportedly offers “a comprehensive exploration of 21st Century school politics.” Doerr’s review also will appear in  the summer issue of Voice of Reason, which is the newsletter for Americans for Religious Liberty. Doerr’s review follows below:

From start to finish this book is a brazen, virulent, deceptive, unreality-based, shameless, slashing attack on American public schools, teachers, and teacher unions. The authors, henceforth PH&W, offer no ideas whatever for improving public schools, demonstrate no comprehension of what education is all about, and make it clear that they strongly favor privatizing public education and diverting public funds to private schools through vouchers, tax credits (neo-vouchers), charters, and cyber schooling. But let’s be specific.

Through their own polls they claim that most Americans favor vouchers or tax credits for public funding of private schools. They carefully avoid discussing the 27… Read More

Folks in Ohio are upset after a Republican state legislator there criticized public education as a failure because, he says, it’s socialism. But he’s got nothing on the anti-public education fanatics we elect here in Texas.

Ohio state Rep. Andrew Brenner wrote about public schools in a blog post on March 3 titled “Public education in America is socialism, what is the solution?” Here’s part of what he wrote:

It is interesting that tea party members will attack Obama-care relentlessly as a socialist system that brings about mediocrity and failure, and also blame Common Core for all of the problems in our education system because they are concerned that it will become centralized. However, they rarely (if ever) bring up the fact that our public education system is already a socialist system. and has been a socialist system since the founding of our country. While one room school houses (which were also used in many cases as houses of worship) worked well 100 years ago when most students graduated by the 7th grade, the same system does not work well today.

The solution to the “problem,” he writes, is to privatize education:

Successful schools will thrive. The free-market… Read More

Rick Perry made at least two things clear in his veto orgy on Friday: the wars on women’s rights and strong public schools continue in Texas.

Gov. Perry vetoed HB 950, the Lily Ledbetter Act, which would have helped stop wage discrimination against women in the state. Just days earlier, Gov. Perry asked state lawmakers in the current special legislative session to pass abortion measures that put government between women and their doctors. State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, author of the Lily Ledbetter Act, got it right:

“Once again our governor has made women’s health and women’s rights a target in order to bolster his own political standing.”

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, also got it right:

“These are political decisions that are part of a political war, and women are – at best – the collateral damage in that war.”

Gov. Perry also vetoed HB 2836, which would have — among other things — required the Texas Education Agency to study whether the public school curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education have become too long, complicated and unwieldy. In fact, they have — largely as a… Read More

UPDATE, 4:40 p.m.: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office just released a formal opinion calling the Pflugerville Independent School District’s policy of offering domestic partners of district employees access to health insurance benefits a violation of the Texas Constitution.

***

Just what in the world are they thinking?

Earlier this month the House Public Education Committee considered legislation (House Bill 1568) to reduce funding to any school district that makes health insurance or other benefits available to the domestic partners of district employees. The Pflugerville Independent School District just north of Austin has adopted such a policy, although the employee has to cover the full cost of his or her partner’s insurance premiums. Religious-right groups — predictably — have pitched a hissy fit and argue that providing access to benefits for domestic partners violates the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The Texas attorney general has not yet issued a formal opinion on whether such policies really do violate that constitutional ban. Even so, the original version of HB 1568 was bad enough — it would undermine local control, was out of step with growing support among Texans for such common sense policies, and represented yet… Read More

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