Torrent Of Bad Education Bills Rips Through Legislature; Leadership Puts Ideology Ahead Of Students, Fiscal Crisis

Torrent Of Bad Education Bills Rips Through Legislature; Leadership Puts Ideology Ahead Of Students, Fiscal Crisis

April 22, 2003

Austin, TX Ideological agendas have displaced sound public policy and the best interest of Texas students at the Texas Capitol, as the legislature considers a litany of anti-public education bills this week, said the Texas Freedom Network.

“Last week, the House slashed $1.4 billion in state education funding, and now politicians are pushing initiatives that would siphon billions more out of public schools,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network. “Count them: a billion dollar voucher program, free textbooks for private school students, and a ‘virtual’ schools program where the state would buy a home computer and printer for untold numbers of homeschooled and private school students.”

“Not only are these bills bad for our neighborhood public schools, they simply defy reason,” said Smoot. “Instead of responsibly addressing our budget deficit and school funding needs, the politicians in charge are putting their pet ideological projects ahead of Texas students.”

“With one hand the Texas House pulled funding for new public school textbooks last week, but this week, the other hand is pushing the state to buy textbooks for private school students,” said Smoot. “The legislature is saying loud and clear that Texas kids in public schools don’t matter.”

The House Public Education Committee will hear a torrent of bad bills today:

Ø FREE TEXTBOOKS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS: H.B. 1133 by Grusendorf (R-Arlington) would require the state to provide free textbooks to any private school student in Texas.

Ø CURRICULUM CHANGES: H.B. 1172 by Madden (R-Richardson) would mandate that “public school curriculum reflect an overall tone that portrays the United States as a country that has overcome its mistakes and emerged as the freest, most democratic nation in the history of the world.” In years past, far right groups have testified that history textbooks had an “overkill of emphasis on cruelty to slaves” and that coverage of slavery, civil rights struggles or discrimination was unpatriotic and anti-Christian.

Ø UNLIMITED SBOE AUTHORITY: H.B. 607 by Mowery (R-Ft. Worth) would grant the State Board of Education the power to appoint the education commissioner, the power to overturn any decision by the commissioner or TEA, and “primary responsibility for adopting education policies and…directing public education” in Texas. HJR 34 by Mowery would place many of these new SBOE powers in the Texas Constitution.

“Virtual” voucher bills are scheduled for floor debate in both the House and Senate today:

Ø “VIRTUAL” VOUCHERS: H.B. 1554 by Grusendorf and companion bill S.B. 933 by Shapiro would create an unlimited number of “virtual” charter schools with unlimited enrollment, at an unlimited cost. The state would pay for online classes, a computer, printer and internet access for each homeschooled, private school and public school student enrolled in the “virtual” school. “Virtual” schools would not be required to comply with any state or federal accountability standards.

Several bills harmful to public school classrooms are pending in House Calendars:

Ø ENDING EDUCATION STANDARDS: H.B. 859 by Madden passed out of House Public Education on 4/10/03. H.B. 859, coupled with Chairman Grusendorf’s H.B. 973, now puts in House Calendars a package of legislation that would eliminate virtually all state education standards, including class size limits, required curriculum, teacher certification, parental rights, educator rights and benefits, compensatory education, dropout prevention, kindergarten and pre-K, in certain districts.

Ø VOUCHERS: H.B. 2465 by Grusendorf would create a private school voucher program in 11 Texas school districts for the next two years and, in 2005, would open the voucher program to any Texas school district and any child.

Ø TEXTBOOK CENSORSHIP: H.B. 1447 by Howard would allow the State Board of Education to edit textbook content and reject textbooks based on Board members’ personal political and religious beliefs rather than on factual accuracy.