The step from demagoguery to enacting real policy change can be remarkably short, and a prime example of this is on full display in Texas right now. In 2003 state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, had this to say about the state's obligation to provide public education for its citizens: "Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it's cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It's not a tender heart. It's ripping the heart out of this country." At the time, Riddle's remarks were roundly decried as a dangerous, fringe opinion. Fast forward to 2011, when state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, says almost the same thing, albeit in more diplomatic language. Acknowledging that the school finance plan currently under consideration does away with the longstanding guarantee that Texas schools would get enough money to provide a basic, foundational education for each student, Patrick is quoted in today's Austin American-Statesman: "[The school finance change in the new budget] is a true cut in an entitlement... There are no guarantees, and for…… Read More

*UPDATE: Moments after TFN posted this entry on Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, filed a massive private school voucher proposal, which goes by the Orwellian title of “taxpayer savings grants.” The bill number is HB 33 in the newly reordered nomenclature of the special legislative session, but it is not a new idea. It is the same voucher scheme that Miller and host of conservative groups tried to sneak into the budget in the closing days of the regular session.

The Texas Legislature began a special session this morning, the day after the regular session ended without the passage of several key pieces of legislation. That failed legislation included several bills involving public education. Gov. Rick Perry has asked the Legislature to focus on measures that will “allow school districts to operate more efficiently,” which means this special session could be critical to the future of public education in Texas. In addition to imposing billions of dollars in budget cuts on public schools, the far right could use the special session to advance a number of its long-standing goals – establishing a private school voucher scheme in Texas and… Read More

Update: The voucher amendment was authored by state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, and will be offered as part of Senate Bill 1811. The text of the amendment can be found here.

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An odd mix, yes? Let's bring you up to speed. According to its website, Harmony Public Schools operates 25 K-12 college preparatory charter schools, with more than 12,000 students in all, that focus on math, science, engineering and computer technologies. These schools have received substantial praise for student achievement from the Texas Education Agency, recognition by former President George W. Bush and numerous other Republican elected officials, and major funding from mainstream foundations, including the Dell and Gates Foundations. Nevertheless, a newly formed group called West Texas Patriots is questioning the opening of a new Harmony Science Academy in Odessa this fall. The group's members claim that the schools have ties to radical Islam, noting links between the foundation that funds the schools and Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim and intellectual (who actually lives in northeastern Pennsylvania). Gulen appears to be a controversial figure (to some people, anyway), but there doesn't seem to be sufficient evidence to support the charge that he is an "Islamic extremist."…… Read More

The national backlash against the Texas State Board of Education‘s politicization of history and social studies curriculum standards is gathering steam. Yesterday a California Senate committee approved a bill requiring that education officials report to legislators and the state’s education secretary any changes influenced by the Texas standards when they review textbook content.

California Sen. Leland Yee,  a Democrat who represents part of the San Francisco Bay Area, drafted the bill. In a press release from his office yesterday, Yee said:

“While some Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes. The alterations and fallacies made by these extremist conservatives are offensive to our communities and inaccurate of our nation’s diverse history. Today, California spoke with a bipartisan voice that our kids should be provided an education based on facts and that embraces our multicultural nation.”

Californians and other non-Texans are increasingly worried that textbooks written for the Texas market will make it into their states’ classrooms. That’s because publishers often write their textbooks to meet curriculum standards in Texas — which has a huge textbook market and… Read More

Just Texas

To all who celebrate, we wish a very happy and sweet new year this Rosh Hashanah! We are incredibly grateful for the passionate Jewish leaders in our community working towards reproductive freedom, LGBTQ inclusion, and the empowerment of women. pic.twitter.com/jCcZ…