TFN Calls for Investigation of Texas Charter School Operator Amid Allegations of Politicized Curriculum Materials

Ideologues trying to politicize our children’s classrooms aren’t just focused on traditional public schools. A report published today alleges that one of the largest charter school operators in Texas is using curriculum materials to indoctrinate students with anti-science and right-wing propaganda. We just sent out this press release:

The president of the Texas Freedom Network today called on the Lone Star State’s education commissioner to investigate stunning allegations about what students are learning on campuses run by one of the state’s largest public charter school operators.

An in-depth article published today by the online magazine Slate alleges that the Responsive Education Solutions charter system uses instructional materials that are riddled with factual errors, teach religious beliefs and discredited attacks on evolution in science classrooms, and promote politically biased arguments as fact in social studies classrooms. Responsive Ed, based in Lewisville near Dallas, says it operates 65 public charter school campuses in Texas, Arkansas and Indiana.

“If these allegations are true, they represent a shocking betrayal of the trust that parents and taxpayers put into our charter schools,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “It’s imperative that the education commissioner investigate whether this charter school operator is undermining the education of thousands of students and putting the state and taxpayers at risk of expensive lawsuits.”

The Slate article here.

According to the article, science instructional materials used on Responsive Ed campuses suggest that supernatural explanations are valid scientific alternatives to evolution, declare that “God created the Heavens and the Earth,” and repeat numerous anti-evolution arguments that scientists discredited long ago.

In addition, the article notes, instructional materials for social studies present politically biased talking points as fact, such as:

  • The New Deal failed to help the economy during the Great Depression.
  • Feminism has led women “to turn to the state as a surrogate husband.”
  • The legitimacy of Purple Hearts awarded John Kerry – the current U.S. Secretary of State and the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 – during the Vietnam War was “suspect at best.”
  • President Carter’s pardon of Vietnam War-era draft dodgers was the result of “a misguided sense of compassion.”

Other inaccuracies and distortions noted in the article include a suggestion that the Samurai – a class that had been effectively abolished in the late 1800s – pushed Japan into World War II, that 16th-century Spain was a republic (it was a monarchy), and that “anti-Christian bias” from the Enlightenment helped lead Europe into World War I.

According to Responsive Ed’s website, more than 17,000 students are enrolled on 65 campuses. According to its 2013 annual report, Responsive Ed received more than $82 million in state, federal and local funding in the fiscal year that ended August 31, 2012.

11 thoughts on “TFN Calls for Investigation of Texas Charter School Operator Amid Allegations of Politicized Curriculum Materials

  1. Well, my kids go to a charter school and we, or I, keep a check on this. So far so good. If we ever find out this shit’s happening, they’ll be enrolled in k12 so fast it’s not even funny!

  2. Time to look into who owns the company running the charter schools. However right-wing bible thumping bias education in Texas should not be a big surprise.

  3. Find out if it is true. If it is, sic Americans United, the Texas ACLU on them and let them answer for it in U.S. District Court. Maybe I’ll call my friend Rob Boston at Americans United and personally ask him to fly down to Texas with his legal staff and take a close look at this issue with an eye specifically towards a First Amendment lawsuit.

  4. Please, please pursue this. The idea that public funds could be used in this manner — funds diverted from public school students — is not only deplorable and frightening. I read this article in Salon yesterday and was truly upset at the implications of such minimal oversight by TEA regarding these schools. Thank you!

  5. It is true, Charles. Mr. Koplin is an extremely careful activist, who has obtained, via the freedom of information act, copies of the classroom materials and quotes directly from them. He has also discovered their origins: in at least some of the cases they were copied directly from creationist material, simply deleting deist references.

    The problem in Texas is that such a high proportion of the voting public are indoctrinated with creationist dogma and worship their bible as the “word of god” that all the elected officials (and their appointees) who would be in line properly to disapprove of the use of State funds in this manner are themselves creationist ignorami.

    We have here a case of the “blind leading the blind.” Legal action in the courts WILL be required to defeat this march of stupidity and ignorance.

  6. I am not a supporter of charter schools because they divert funds from the general public schools to special interest schools that do not replace public schools since they do not have to provide the same services, such as special education for children with learning or physical disabilities. This is not to say that none of the charter schools provide a good education, but they tend to leave behind the children with the greatest need for education due to economic and societal factors.
    Families who want a sectarian education for their children are not prevented from sending them to private schools. Asking the Texas public to support sectarian schools weakens the Texas public school system because it is already severely challenged to provide quality education with limited funds.

    I am appalled at the curriculum being used by Responsive Education, which clearly is intended to subvert Texas education standards. The entire charter school movement has been promoted for the purpose of subsidizing private school tuitions under the guise of “school choice”. Those families who most need improved education opportunities for their children are left out of “school choice” because state assistance only pays a portion of the tuition. Only families who already have some financial means can provide the rest of the tuition.
    Free public education is the foundation of our democracy because a democracy can only flourish with an educated citizenry. Charter schools are not entirely without merit, but the lack of educational and financial oversight allows the misuse of public funds to for private purposes.

  7. I too am up in arms about the laxity of the TEA and the commisionser of education. Before approving the operation of the charter schools the curriculum was supposed to have been thoroughly examined. Had this happened surly these aberations in science and social studies would have been found. I’m very suspicious; the evidence points to an inside job, particularly knowing the distorted beliefs of the key man in education, Sen. Dan Patrick who openly advocates creationism taught in our schools. He is joined by the key figures in the Perry regime, Abbott, Dewhurst Patterson, Staples etc, the list is long. It was only a few months ago when Dewhurst and Patrick schemed to broaden the charter and voucher program cutting even more moneys from public education who still is owed 2 billion from early cuts just to bring it back to its early budget status. Fortunately the legos didn’t fall for their deceit( the charter industy can afford to reward for services rendered and circumstances seem to be pointing inward to me) Zack Kopplin did a yeoman job of investigating journalism on this and a similar occurance in the Louisiana public schools in which the governer was complict. This young man is a keeper. Charles, you are right on re: American United. I happen to be a consultant to the local chapter in San Antonio, and most certainly this issue will be on the comming agenda.

    1. Rob tells me the biggest problem in conservative states like Texas is finding a public school parent with standing who is willing to step forward and sue.

      The local social sanction of the masses is so powerful that people are afraid to do it. See Frankenstein monster, torches, and pitchforks. Something is wrong—deeply and dreadfully wrong—when a person cannot stand up for their constitutional rights in court without a few Duck Dynasty-type yahoos coming over to your house and burning it down at 3:00 a.m., slitting tires on your car, etc.

      In the small town where I grew up, the city fathers would be saying one thing to the media while already having negotiated with the local judge to give the tire slashers judicial “whatever they call it” so they can go free.

      Small, southern, rural, towns are organized by well moneyed older men with big bellies whose primary goal in life is to keep the town populace in line with whichever value system the largest local church dictates and to keep the minimum wage and other low wage workers in line: The term “in line” means, “Thank you for kicking the crap out of me. May I have another please.”

      I grew up in a town like that, and I despise them and the people who run them.

  8. I warned everybody who would listen when this charter scheme was being hatched. I told them that it would be taxpayer money used to fund private schools, and religion would be part of the curriculum. I was jeered and told that there’d be regulations that would prevent that happening. I said the charters would slip it right in while denying they were doing it. Well….I was right.