We just got a look at the new candidate questionnaire from Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of the far-right group Focus on the Family. None of the questions are particularly surprising — they hit the list of issues typical for this group (such as abstinence-only/sex education, anti-gay discrimination, Ten Commandments in public schools, private school vouchers). But is it too much to ask that Liberty write questions that are based on, well, the truth? Example:
“Do you support the current law which says the [State Board of Education] may reject a textbook if it believes the book is unsuitable?”
There is no such law.
In fact, as we pointed out when we looked at Liberty’s primary election voter guide in February, Texas law requires the State Board of Education to approve textbooks that cover the state’s curriculum standards, are free of factual errors and meet manufacturing standards. Two state attorneys general have affirmed the validity of that law — passed by the Texas Legislature in 1995 — and that limitation on the board’s authority.
Even so, Liberty Institute and the far-right board members it supports claim the state board has broad authority to censor and reject textbooks that they deem unsuitable. But that is precisely what the Texas Legislature acted to prevent with its 1995 law. Why? Because board members were censoring textbook content they thought was unsuitable simply because of their personal and political beliefs. Some state board members are still trying to do that, regardless of the law — which is a major reason the Legislature must act in 2011 to further rein in an out-of-control board. (At the very least, lawmakers should require that teachers and scholars, not politicians, write curriculum and textbook standards.)
In any case, Liberty Institute isn’t just lying to candidates for office with its questionnaire. The questionnaire (and candidates’ answers) will be distributed to voters across the state this fall. In short, the folks at Liberty Institute are trying to mislead Texas voters, not inform them.