Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed the only State Board of Education bill to make it out of the Legislature this session. House Bill 772 by state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, requires video and audio Webcasts of state board meetings. The bill takes effect in September of this year.

It’s good that Texas voters will now be able to watch the circus that passes for education policy development at the state board. But it remains deeply disappointing that Republican legislators have let far-right groups and party leaders pressure them into killing other bills that would bring concrete reform to the board and how it conducts business.… Read More

A renewed effort by Texas legislators to put the State Board of Education under Sunset review fizzled this past weekend under pressure from Senate leaders. It appears that Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, had rounded up enough Democratic and Republican votes to add the requirement to House Bill 1959 (which deals with various other agencies under Sunset review). Sen. Ellis' amendment didn't allow for the abolishment of the SBOE -- it simply provided for a one-time review of whether the board works efficiently and performs as expected by taxpayers and the Legislature. But Senate leaders stepped in and blocked Sen. Ellis' effort on Saturday. Similar legislation that would have put the SBOE under periodic review by the state's Sunset Advisory Commission failed in the House last month. HB 710 got preliminary approval on second reading but failed to win final passage the next day when Republican leaders made its rejection a required demonstration of party loyalty. (The SBOE currently has a 10-5 Republican majority.) Another bill to rein in the SBOE's authority, Senate Bill 2275, has failed to get out of committee even though three Republican senators are co-authors. And…… Read More

Earlier this spring teachers serving as members of writing teams working on new social studies curriculum standards were blind-sided when someone leaked an unfinished, preliminary draft of their working document to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). At the public State Board of Education meeting in March, TPPF ripped into these writing teams, claiming that they had "removed or changed important pieces of history and government to reflect an anti-free-market viewpoint." Several board members joined in the feeding frenzy, slandering the work of these teachers without even bothering to hear their explanation. TFN was shocked -- shocked!  -- t0  learn who stabbed these teachers in the back by leaking the incomplete standards to a political pressure group. None other than our old friend and embattled board chairman, Don McLeroy. Read More

On Friday the Texas Senate passed legislation that requires live video and audio Webcasts of State Board of Education meetings. House Bill 772 by state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, is the only bill that focuses on the controversy-plagued state board to have now passed both the House and Senate. Currently, Texans can follow board meetings only by audio on the Web, although legislative proceedings — committee meetings and well as House and Senate floor action — have been available to voters by live video streamed over the Internet. Many supporters of HB 772 hope video Webcasting will help voters learn more about how the state board crafts education policy for Texas public schools. If Gov. Rick Perry signs the bill, the Webcasting requirement will take effect Sept. 1 of this year.

Other SBOE reform legislation is still languishing in committee. HB 2037 and HJR 77 (a constitutional amendment) would shift authority over the Permanent School Fund from the state board to an appointed board of finance professionals. Both measures, also authored by Rep. Howard, have passed the House but are now sitting in the

Will Republican legislators ever find the courage to get off their knees when they get pressure from far-right groups? Not today, it seems. Just yesterday the Texas House approved on second reading House Bill 710, which would have made the Texas State Board of Education subject to periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. That vote was 74-68. But the House just voted down the measure on third reading, 71-73. Only one Republican crossed the aisle to vote for HB 710. The vote came after religious conservatives -- rallied by a virtual "who's who" of right-wing pressure groups -- bombarded House offices with e-mails and phone calls opposing this common-sense bill. That pressure campaign didn't surprise us -- far-right groups have been thrilled that the state board is controlled by ideologues who keep dragging public schools into the culture wars. But the vote should be terribly disappointing for parents and other taxpayers who are tired of extremists using the State Board of Education as a playground for promoting ideological agendas. A Texas Freedom Network press release about today's House vote follows the jump. Read More