Texas State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, is trying to lock up her religious-right base in her race for re-election this year. In an email today, the right-wing Houston Area Pastor Council is touting Cargill’s planned speech on March 1 at the Montgomery County Pastor Luncheon:

“The Texas State Board of Education has been in the national media repeatedly in the past several years over our stand for protecting history textbooks from political correctness, teaching both strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian Evolutionary Theory, and now over the assault by allies of Planned Parenthood to undermine Abstinence Based sex education.

Hon. Barbara Cargill is now the SBOE Chairman and one of the courageous conservatives who has withstood intense attacks by anti-religious groups such as Texas Freedom Network, ACLU and others. YOU NEED TO HEAR FROM HER as to why there is such a battle for control over Texas education and what we need to do this year!”

TFN is an “anti-religious group”? That would certainly surprise the clergy leaders who serve on our board as well as the hundreds of others who participate in our Texas Faith Network.

We do, however, oppose… Read More

It’s no surprise that Rick Santorum, who returned to Texas this week to campaign with pastors at a McKinney church near Dallas, is opposed to a federal requirement that employer health insurance plans cover contraception. But the Republican presidential candidate went even further on Friday:

“This has nothing to do with access. This is having someone pay for it, pay for something that shouldn’t even be in an insurance plan anyway because it is not, really an insurable item. This is something that is affordable, available. You don’t need insurance for these types of relatively small expenditures. This is simply someone trying to impose their values on somebody else, with the arm of the government doing so. That should offend everybody, people of faith and no faith that the government could get on a roll that is that aggressive.”

Let’s leave aside for now the issue of who is trying to impose their values on whom here. What really startled us was Santorum’s claim that contraception shouldn’t be covered by any insurance because people can afford it on their own.

The cost of contraception varies by method and insurance coverage, of course. But birth control pills… Read More

In language clearly calculated to inflame and offend, anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry has issued a provocative press release suggesting that Catholic voters are “the ‘new Negro’ of the Democratic Party.” Terry lays out various court cases — including the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court’s Smith v. Allwright case that struck down the Texas Democratic Party’s all-white primaries — in arguing that “reporters will understand the glaring comparison of ‘Negro’ voters and candidates in Democratic Primaries in the 1940s, and Catholic voters of today.”

What in the world is he talking about?

The issue involves Terry’s desire to air very graphic anti-abortion commercials during the Super Bowl. Terry, who has described himself as a “lifelong Republican,” says election law requires broadcasters to air his ads because he is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. The Democratic National Committee argues that Terry’s presidential “campaign” is just a stunt to get his ads aired, and broadcasters are refusing the ads. (And we can understand why they wouldn’t want to broadcast images of aborted fetuses to millions of viewers and their children watching a football game.)

So now Terry is suggesting that the refusal of the… Read More

After several years of especially divisive “culture war” battles over what Texas public school students should learn about evolution, history and other subjects, the State Board of Education last week decided that it will adopt new science textbooks for all schools in 2013. The new adoption schedule also has the board approving textbooks for history and social studies in 2014.

The decision to adopt new science and social studies textbooks comes after the board adopted controversial curriculum standards for both in recent years — science in 2009 and social studies in 2010. Independent reports over the past year have given both sets of standards poor marks.

Yesterday, for example, a report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute criticized the 2009 science standards in Texas as “riddled with errors,” “sketchy,” “redundant,” and “woefully imbalanced.” Last year a Fordham report called the American history standards adopted in 2010 a “politicized distortion” of American history filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.” And last fall a report for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Social Studies Faculty Collaborative warned that the social studies standards are “ineffective,” “fail to meet the state’s college readiness standards,” andRead More

This should tell you a lot about the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Texas State Board of Education. Last year the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute sharply criticized the state board for its “ideological manipulation,” historical revisionism and contempt for expertise in adopting new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools in 2010. Today a new Fordham report gives science curriculum standards adopted by the state board in 2009 a grade of “C.” Yet here’s what state board Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, had to say about the new Fordham report:

“As a science teacher, I am pleased that our standards received a score of 5 out of 7 for content and rigor. We look forward to continuing to work with Texas teachers to bring the best instruction to the classroom with our excellent science standards.”

Seriously? She celebrates a “C” grade? She really thinks Texas is giving kids the “best instruction” with “excellent science standards” that, in fact, get low marks from a conservative education think-tank? News flash for Ms. Cargill: Most parents don’t think mediocrity is something to celebrate, especially when it comes to the education of their… Read More