This very short clip from last weekend’s debate between State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, highlights how the manufactured “controversy” over CSCOPE eventually oozed out of the right-wing fever swamps.

Tea party and other political activists (including a for-profit political consulting company) have absurdly claimed that the CSCOPE curriculum tool used by hundreds of Texas public and Christian schools is un-American, anti-Christian, pro-Islamic and Marxist. Those claims have been based on mistruths and ridiculous distortions of CSCOPE lessons. Here are some examples. Here are some others.

Even so, Sen. Patrick (who is running for lieutenant governor in the 2014 elections) has shamefully pandered to those activists. He repeats their half-baked arguments over and over — including at the debate with Ratliff. He even pressured (successfully) the state’s Education Service Centers to stop producing CSCOPE lessons.

Ratliff says he trusts local school district officials and teachers to decide for themselves whether to continue using existing CSCOPE lessons that are now in the public domain. They, he argues, are qualified to know what’s appropriate and what’s not in their… Read More

If you missed last Saturday’s CSCOPE debate between State Board of Education vice chair Thomas Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, here it is in its entirety.

On one side, you had an SBOE member who showed up with facts. On the other, you had an ambitious politician running for higher office who came armed with red meat for the paranoid right. But don’t take our word for it, watch the whole thing for yourself.

And finally, we’ll point out that this video is unedited. We feel the need to stress this because, given the history of this “controversy,” it’s likely that the CSCOPE opponents will accuse us of using Islamic camera angles, or some other crazy thing.

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The absurd, manufactured controversy over CSCOPE in Texas is leaping back into the spotlight. And that spotlight is illuminating just how hypocritical some of the curriculum tool’s political critics really are.

On Friday State Board of Education Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, and state Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick, R-Houston, announced that they have agreed to a public debate over CSCOPE. At around the same time, state board Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said the board will resume its review of CSCOPE lessons. That review had been short-circuited in May when Sen. Patrick bullied the state’s Education Service Centers into ending their development of those lessons. And now we hear that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst will crow at a Monday press conference about a state judge who apparently has issued a temporary restraining order against the use of CSCOPE in a Hill Country school district.

Regarding the debate, Patrick has been one of the most vocal legislative leaders in the anti-CSCOPE witch hunt. Far-right activists have claimed (with no real evidence) that the program is Marxist, pro-Islam, anti-American and anti-Christian. The state’s Education Service Centers developed CSCOPE, which includes lessons written by current and retired… Read More

Just two months after gutting a curriculum tool that nearly 900 Texas school districts were using, state Sen. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have decided they're not done harassing educators and wasting taxpayer dollars. Last week Patrick called on the Texas State Auditor's Office to review the operations of the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC), which was managing the CSCOPE curriculum program. The TESCCC (a nonprofit entity) was a collaboration of the state's 20 Education Service Centers (ESCs). Abbott sent a letter to the auditor's office making the same request a week earlier and tweeted on Sunday that "our investigation into #CSCOPE continues." No one has provided even a shred of evidence that the TESCCC, which was created to protect the intellectual property rights to CSCOPE, was involved in financial shenanigans. But right-wing activists -- the same ones who absurdly claim that CSCOPE's lessons (written largely by current and retired Texas teachers) are anti-American, anti-Christian, pro-Marxist and pro-Islam -- have been demanding that someone "investigate" anyway. Patrick, who has announced a run for lieutenant governor next year, and Abbot, who has launched a bid for the Governor's Mansion, have been the most prominent politicians pandering to the anti-CSCOPE fanatics. (The two have Republican primaries to win, after all.) First those fanatics demanded that the Legislature give the State Board of Education authority over CSCOPE's lessons, authority the state board has over no other curriculum program. Then in February, Patrick pressured the Education Service Centers into agreeing to submit CSCOPE's lessons to the state board for review. That review began in the following weeks. The service centers also agreed to shut down the TESCCC and to make all of the lessons available online for public review. But Patrick and Abbott apparently decided that those agreements didn't go far enough. Over the objections of school districts that were concerned about losing the ability to make local decisions about the curriculum materials they use, Sen. Patrick pushed legislation -- Senate Bill 1406 -- to require CSCOPE lessons to be reviewed by the state board. Then after more political bullying, the Education Service Centers agreed in May to drop lessons from CSCOPE altogether, largely gutting the program. Patrick boasted that "the era of CSCOPE lesson plans has come to an end," and the state board halted its review. The Legislature subsequently passed SB 1406 anyway. Dismayed by the twists and turns of this political witch hunt, teachers and administrators in hundreds of school districts were left scrambling to find a way to replace all of those CSCOPE lessons before the start of the 2013-14 school year. Most of these small and medium-sized districts simply don't have the resources to create curriculum plans, which is why they found CSCOPE so valuable. Many teachers began downloading and archiving the existing CSCOPE lessons so they could continue using them. Far-right critics were outraged (they want to kill CSCOPE completely), leading Patrick to call on parents to report those teachers to him so he could turn them over to the attorney general's office for investigation. But Patrick apparently didn't realize that by pressuring the service centers to shut down the entity -- TESCCC -- that owned the rights to those lessons, the lessons essentially exist now in the public domain. And, in fact, that's what the legal counsel for the Texas Education Agency said at last week's State Board of Education meeting. So that brings us to the request by Patrick and Abbott for an audit of the now-nonexistent TESCCC over allegations for which no one has provided any evidence. Got all that? The state auditor will have to decide whether it's worth taxpayer money to investigate the TESCCC. If such an audit turns up no problems, taxpayers can point their fingers at Patrick and Abbott. (Patrick is still pushing other falsehoods in his attacks on CSCOPE. On his Facebook page last Friday, Patrick repeated his claim that "according to the Texas Tribune districts that used CSCOPE saw lower scores on the STAAR tests than districts who did not use the program." That claim -- along with many others Patrick has made regarding CSCOPE -- is not true. The Texas Tribune conducted no such study.) Meanwhile, some state board members want to restart the aborted review of CSCOPE's lessons. Member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, plans to propose doing so at the board's board meeting. In a press release on Friday, Ratliff explained his reasoning: This artificial controversy has gone on too long without someone at the state level taking charge and performing a review of these lessons and separating myth from reality and education from politics. It’s unfortunate that so much time, energy and taxpayer dollars have been wasted because Senator Patrick was too quick to run to the Senate Press Room before he fully vetted the policy and practical implications of his actions. It’s clear that being a leader requires more than having a good press conference. We now have hundreds of districts, thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students being impacted because of the political ambitions of one person. Education is too important to be a political pawn and the SBOE is going to do what we can to get those schoolchildren off of the chess board. Patrick's SB 1406 gives the state board authority to review those lessons. But now anti-CSCOPE activists are objecting to the very lesson review that they had been demanding for months. Maybe they're worried Ratliff is right: a review will show that their political attacks on CSCOPE as anti-American, Marxist and the like have been complete nonsense. Like Patrick and Abbott, they really haven't thought any of this through very well. Ratliff's full press release from Friday follows after the jump: Read More

Texas State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, has already made clear his disgust over the political witch hunt that forced the state’s Education Service Centers to stop writing lesson plans in their CSCOPE curriculum management system. In May, for example, he tore into Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, for his role in those attacks on CSCOPE, which hundreds of Texas school districts have been using. Now Ratliff has written another scathing piece, this time about Patrick’s efforts to bully and harass teachers into not using CSCOPE lessons that have already been created.

This is a “must read.” Ratliff isn’t pulling any punches. (Links, italics, boldface and underlining in original.)

NO BULLYING POLICIES AND BURNING BOOKS

By Thomas Ratliff, Vice Chairman, Texas State Board of Education

Our country was founded on a “no-bullying” policy when our founders stood up to an English King who tried to bully us. Our military has helped other countries stand up to bullies throughout history. Even today, every Texas public school has a “no bullying” policy for protection of their students.

It’s time for parents, educators, and school board members to stand up to… Read More

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