Archive for the ‘public education’ Category

Getting the Public Out of Education

June 2, 2011

The step from demagoguery to enacting real policy change can be remarkably short, and a prime example of this is on full display in Texas right now.

In 2003 state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, had this to say about the state’s obligation to provide public education for its citizens:

“Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it’s cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It’s not a tender heart. It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”

At the time, Riddle’s remarks were roundly decried as a dangerous, fringe opinion.

Fast forward to 2011, when state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, says almost the same thing, albeit in more diplomatic language. Acknowledging that the school finance plan currently under consideration does away with the longstanding guarantee that Texas schools would get enough money to provide a basic, foundational education for each student, Patrick is quoted in today’s Austin American-Statesman:

“[The school finance change in the new budget] is a true cut in an entitlement… There are no guarantees, and for a Legislature to say we can guarantee this forever is not being straightforward to the people.”

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TX Special Session: Public Education at Risk

May 31, 2011

*UPDATE: Moments after TFN posted this entry on Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, filed a massive private school voucher proposal, which goes by the Orwellian title of “taxpayer savings grants.” The bill number is HB 33 in the newly reordered nomenclature of the special legislative session, but it is not a new idea. It is the same voucher scheme that Miller and host of conservative groups tried to sneak into the budget in the closing days of the regular session.

The Texas Legislature began a special session this morning, the day after the regular session ended without the passage of several key pieces of legislation. That failed legislation included several bills involving public education. Gov. Rick Perry has asked the Legislature to focus on measures that will “allow school districts to operate more efficiently,” which means this special session could be critical to the future of public education in Texas. In addition to imposing billions of dollars in budget cuts on public schools, the far right could use the special session to advance a number of its long-standing goals – establishing a private school voucher scheme in Texas and expanding the State Board of Education’s authority over curriculum and textbooks. We saw attempts to do both during the regular legislative session.

It’s critical that supporters of public education stay engaged during this special session. You can help the Texas Freedom Network support strong public schools in three ways:

We will have a more detailed legislative wrap up on all of TFN’s issues in the coming days.

Voucher Lobby Targets Texas Public Schools

May 17, 2011

Update: The voucher amendment was authored by state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, and will be offered as part of Senate Bill 1811. The text of the amendment can be found here.

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We have just learned that voucher advocates plan to seek a vote in the Texas House of Representatives tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) on a truly radical scheme to take billions of taxpayer dollars from neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools across the state. This brazen assault on public education comes as Texas lawmakers are already considering billions of dollars in other cuts to the state’s budget for neighborhood schools.

It’s critical that supporters of public education move quickly to stop this reckless and irresponsible attack on the future of nearly 5 million Texas schoolchildren. Read on to find out more about this new development and how you can take action.

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Tea Partiers, Muslims and Odessa

June 16, 2010

An odd mix, yes? Let’s bring you up to speed.

According to its website, Harmony Public Schools operates 25 K-12 college preparatory charter schools, with more than 12,000 students in all, that focus on math, science, engineering and computer technologies. These schools have received substantial praise for student achievement from the Texas Education Agency, recognition by former President George W. Bush and numerous other Republican elected officials, and major funding from mainstream foundations, including the Dell and Gates Foundations.

Nevertheless, a newly formed group called West Texas Patriots is questioning the opening of a new Harmony Science Academy in Odessa this fall. The group’s members claim that the schools have ties to radical Islam, noting links between the foundation that funds the schools and Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim and intellectual (who actually lives in northeastern Pennsylvania). Gulen appears to be a controversial figure (to some people, anyway), but there doesn’t seem to be sufficient evidence to support the charge that he is an “Islamic extremist.”

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California Advances Anti-Texas Textbook Bill

April 22, 2010

The national backlash against the Texas State Board of Education‘s politicization of history and social studies curriculum standards is gathering steam. Yesterday a California Senate committee approved a bill requiring that education officials report to legislators and the state’s education secretary any changes influenced by the Texas standards when they review textbook content.

California Sen. Leland Yee,  a Democrat who represents part of the San Francisco Bay Area, drafted the bill. In a press release from his office yesterday, Yee said:

“While some Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes. The alterations and fallacies made by these extremist conservatives are offensive to our communities and inaccurate of our nation’s diverse history. Today, California spoke with a bipartisan voice that our kids should be provided an education based on facts and that embraces our multicultural nation.”

Californians and other non-Texans are increasingly worried that textbooks written for the Texas market will make it into their states’ classrooms. That’s because publishers often write their textbooks to meet curriculum standards in Texas — which has a huge textbook market and a centralized adoption process — and then sell those textbooks to schools across the country.

At what point will Texas lawmakers finally realize that the State Board of Education is undermining the state’s reputation — politically, educationally and in the business world — across the country?

Brian Russell: Public Schools Hater

April 8, 2010

When Cynthia “Public Schools Are Tools of Perversion” Dunbar recruited Austin attorney Brian Russell to run for the seat she is vacating on the Texas State Board of Education, the obvious question was whether Russell shares her contempt for public education.

We got a partial answer when it was revealed that Russell home-schools his kids. Then yesterday the Austin American-Statesman’s Jason Embry reported Russell’s favorable reaction to an anti-public schools screed posted to Facebook by an officer of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT).

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A Plea for Change on the SBOE

March 2, 2010

As we all wait for election results this evening, check out Paul Burka’s excellent essay about the State Board of Education that just went online at Texas Monthly. Money quotes:

“I do not toss around the term ‘far right’ groundlessly. Here is how retiring board member Cynthia Dunbar describes the institution of public education in her recent book, One Nation Under God: a ‘subtly deceptive tool of perversion.’ Dunbar and her allies on the SBOE have given up on public education. Rather than address how to improve public schools, they seek to slay dragons—evolution, sex education, whole language, new ways of teaching math, unpatriotic depictions of Texas and American history.”

“The bipartisan political action committee Parent PAC has emerged in the past two election cycles to back candidates who support public schools; witness its endorsement of (Thomas) Ratliff against (Don) McElroy. The Texas Freedom Network calls attention to outrages, of which there is no shortage. For many years there have been no consequences for a majority faction that has failed to put the future of Texas ahead of its personal and ideological agendas. With any luck, the majority won’t be a majority anymore.”

Read the whole thing.

We will have updates on TFN Insider this evening as results come in from the polls.

Religious Freedom and Public Schools

June 13, 2009

The Texas Freedom Network has been stepping up efforts to protect the right of families to direct the religious education of their own children as the religious right’s assault on that freedom moves into high gear. The latest example of the right’s increasingly aggressive campaign: an Ohio teacher has filed a lawsuit claiming that public school officials have violated his constitutional and civil rights by trying to stop him from promoting his religious beliefs in the classroom.

School officials in Mount Vernon, Ohio, took action against John Freshwater, an eighth-grade science teacher, after an investigation into a series of incidents. The Columbus Dispatch reports:

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