Far-right groups are blasting out e-mails calling on their foot soldiers to contact legisators in opposition to bills that would rein in the Texas State Board of Education’s authority. We wonder: why aren’t mainstream conservative groups coming out in opposition to common-sense legislation that puts management of the Permanent School Fund in the hands of real finance experts? Legislation that takes control over what 4.7 million Texas schoolchildren learn out of the hands of ideologues who claim public schools are “tools of perversion,” “unconstitutional” and “tyranical”? Legislation that simply requires the state board to justify its actions and show that it is doing its intended job? Legislation that puts the education of our schoolchildren ahead of fringe agendas?
The answer seems pretty clear: mainstream conservatives are appalled at what that the State Board of Education has become a playground for extremists who attack the faith of anyone who disagrees with them. But far-right groups like Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family-Texas and WallBuilders don’t agree. They have been happy to see Texas public schools dragged into the nation’s divisive culture wars.
Free Market tells its supporters that legislation focused on the state board is “another extreme move to strike back at the SBOE because some House and Senate members did not like the outcome of recent SBOE decisions on science and Bible curriculum.” Of course, there’s nothing “extreme” about defending sound science and religious freedom in our state’s public schools. These bills would simply transfer authority that board members have grossly abused.
A WallBuilders e-mail also relies on distortions in defense of extremism by claiming that “just last month (the state board) suspended the work of an appointed educational panel for removing all references to ‘free enterprise’ from the pending standards for history and government textbooks!” Hogwash. Work panel members debated whether to replace references to the “free enterprise system” with “capitalism,” a term some educators thought was more familiar to students. One can argue whether or not that’s a good idea, but it’s simply a lie to suggest that the work group wanted to keep students ignorant about the importance of the free enterprise system/capitalism.
Of course, we expected the over-the-top screeds we’re now seeing from the far right. They are in full panic mode because they realize voters and lawmakers are finally seeing what religious extremism is doing to the State Board of Education and public schools in Texas.
Will these bills ultimately pass? It’s hard to say at this point. But lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats — are sending a clear message to the state board: stop the nonsense or they will.