Archive for the ‘Rick Agosto’ Category

Rick Scarborough Rides Again

August 5, 2011

We haven’t heard from the president of the far-right, Texas-based group Vision America for a long time. But today Pastor Rick Scarborough sent out an email blast blaming the nation’s debt on immorality and promoting Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Saturday prayer rally in Houston as a step toward solving the problem:

“Billions of dollars are required every year to assist in paying for the lack of responsible behavior in our nation, whether it is in fighting various sexually transmitted diseases, welfare, various assistance programs for those in poverty, etc. I lay the blame at the feet of both the politicians and the preachers, for their unwillingness to address the moral disintegration of our nation. Add to these indisputable facts that our courts have declared war on God. Seldom has a day passed in recent years that someone, somewhere, does not file a lawsuit seeking to ban any mention of the God who gave us our freedoms from the public square. Tragically, few if any, even among Christians, truly fight to end this madness.

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Board Takes Up Anti-Muslim Measure

September 24, 2010

The Texas State Board of Education is about to take up a proposed resolution attacking Islam and claiming that social studies textbooks are anti-Christian. TFN Insider will keep you updated on progress.

9:53 a.m. – We notice that board members Barbara Cargill and Don McLeroy have been going through world history textbooks currently used in Texas publics schools. Cargill has them stacked at her desk. We anticipate that she and McLeroy will use examples from those books to try to prove that they reflect an anti-Christian, pro-Islamic bias. But those textbooks were approved for Texas schools by this board in 2002, and social conservatives at the time were very happy. Why? Because, as news reports from the time explain, they were able to force publishers to make numerous changes, including the addition of positive references to Christianity and the deletion of neutral or positive references to Islam. From a Houston Chronicle article dated Oct. 30, 2002 (now archived on a conservative Christian website):

The discussion of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., by Muslim extremists was closely read by many reviewers. Raborn criticized a passage in the Glencoe/McGraw-Hill book that discussed how Osama bin Laden’s instructions to his followers to kill Americans was not supported by the Quran, which tells soldiers to show civilians kindness and justice.

“This is going to great length to put a positive light on Muslim teachings considering other passages in the Quran. Either leave this material out alltogether or present more balance,” Raborn said in written comments submitted to the state board.

The publisher replaced the deleted passage with a statement that al-Qaeda’s anti-American beliefs were not shared by all Muslims. “The attacks on the United States horrified people around the world, including millions of Muslims who live in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere,” the book now reads.

Other examples are found in an Oct. 27, 2002, Fort Worth Star-Telegram article in our files (apparently archived on a subscription-only website). The article notes that publishers were forced to delete this passage from one textbooks, World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures:

“But many more other teachings in the Quran, such as the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for their families, govern their daily lives.”

Another textbook, World Civilizations: The Global Experience, added this passage:

“Christianity, for example, appealed to educated people, as it adopted a complex set of ideas about God and life. Its spirituality and its promise of eternal life also appealed to many other groups.”

That article summed up the changes:

“Some new Texas textbooks no longer teach that the Quran stresses honesty and honor, that glaciers moved over the earth millions of years ago or that Communists felt their system of government offered workers more security. “

The reference to glaciers was changed in one textbook to “in the distant past” because creationists insist that these rivers of ice could not have moved over the earth millions of years ago when, they argued, earth didn’t even exist.

Conservatives quoted by the article expressed their delight with the changes they forced publishers to make throughout their textbooks. Here’s what Chris Patterson of the far-right Texas Public Policy Foundation had to say:

“For the most part, we are delighted with the changes. The publishers made very substantive changes in adding content and correcting errors.”

Today, however, the State Board of Education’s bloc of social conservatives claim that social studies textbooks the board adopted eight years ago are anti-Christian and pro-Islam.

10 a.m. – Gail Lowe, state board chair, brings up the resolution. She says this resolution is just about the balanced treatment of “divergent religious groups.” Really? Then why does the resolution specifically attack Islam and make untrue claims about coverage of Islam and Christianity in the standards?

10:01: Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is testifying. We’ll reproduce her testimony on here later. She’s making a sharp criticism of this inflammatory resolution: “It’s hard not to conclude that the misleading claims in this resolution are not the result of ignorance or are instead the result of fear-mongering.” She says: pass a neutral resolution that calls for on publishers to treat all religions fairly and accurately. Attacking Islam in the resolution is unnecessary and divisive.

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Rick Agosto Responds to Ethics Issue

September 16, 2010

Texas State Board of Education member Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, sent the following e-mail to us today. His message references two posts on TFN Insider from September 29, 2009 (here and here). Mr. Agosto’s e-mail to us follows in full.

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Something’s Rotten Here

February 1, 2010

In today’s Texas Tribune story about the State Board of Education‘s management of the Permanent School Fund (PSF), much of the focus has been on this inane quote from board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna:

“If you sit on the mental health commission, do you have to be retarded? If you sit on the [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission], do you have to be a drunk?”

Bradley was arguing that the board — made up mostly of non-finance types, like a dentist, lawyers, an insurance salesman and political activists — could do a fine job of managing the massive PSF. But perhaps more interesting was Bradley’s sneering criticism of the fund’s permanent professional staff. He told the Tribune that the staff simply couldn’t be trusted because those employees work for the Texas Education Agency instead of reporting to the state board:

“Staff usually works against the board. Sometimes staff can facilitate an agenda of their own.”

And what agenda would that be, Mr. Bradley? Is the professional staff you hold with such contempt interested in something more than maximizing the return on investments for a fund that benefits Texas kids and public education? If that’s what you mean, bring forth the evidence.

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Agosto Won’t Seek Re-election to SBOE

November 6, 2009

Big news yesterday regarding the Texas State Board of Education: Rick Agosto, the Democratic member from San Antonio who has often voted with the board’s far-right faction on controversial issues, said he will not seek re-election to his seat next year.

This news came as Democrat Michael Soto, a literature professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, announced that he will run for the seat. The district is strongly Democratic, and Mr. Soto had already begun lining up support from other elected officials, such as state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and former board member Joe Bernal, both San Antonio Democrats. Burnt Orange Report has more about Mr. Soto here.

Without Mr. Agosto, the board’s far-right faction would have a harder time getting a majority of votes on controversial issues in coming years, such as the adoption of new textbooks in science (scheduled for 2011, although budget issues could change that) and social studies (2012). On the other hand, seven other board seats are up for election in 2010. The results of those races could also alter the board’s balance of power.

Currently, three far-right members — Don McLeroy, R-College Station; Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond; and Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio — have drawn election opponents. Other board members whose seats are up for election next year are Rene Nuñez, D-El Paso; Lawrence Allen, D-Houston; Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas; and Bob Craig, R-Lubbock.

Money and Politics at the Texas SBOE, Part II

September 29, 2009

(Click here for Part I of this series.)

The Texas Freedom Network and other observers have long been puzzled about why Rick Agosto, a San Antonio Democrat, has often sided with the State Board of Education’s far-right faction since his election in 2006. He has done so even when all other Democrats — and even some Republicans (who are not part of the far-right faction) — have refused to do so.

The revelations this weekend in the Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman about ethics concerns surrounding the board’s hiring of an investment consultant raise more questions about Mr. Agosto’s relationship to the board’s far-right faction. More importantly, perhaps, they reinforce the need for the Legislature to ensure that decisions about what Texas children learn in their public school classrooms are not held hostage to political games involving management of the $20.5 billion Permanent School Fund. Read on.

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Money and Politics at the Texas SBOE, Part I

September 29, 2009

Earlier this year the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to shift authority over the Permanent School Fund (PSF) from the State Board of Education to a panel of financial experts. Senate Republican leaders, however, let the measure die without even a hearing. Now they may have good reason to regret that decision.

On Sunday the Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman ran separate stories about ethics concerns surrounding the state board’s management of the PSF. The $20.5 billion fund is the second largest educational endowment in the country. That money funds the purchase of textbooks and other school supplies and guarantees bonds issued by local school districts.

There is more to the story than what was reported on Sunday by the Morning News and Statesman. But first, here’s a summary of what we saw as some key points in the two stories:

–  The stories detail ethics concerns regarding recent board votes to hire a new general investment consultant, Massachusetts-based New England Pension Consultants (NEPC), to help board members manage the PSF.

– Some state board members say they were not told that several members of PSF’s executive staff expressed concerns about potential ethics violations by board members involved with the decision to hire NEPC.

– NEPC’s primary champion on the state board was Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, who works as a marketer for institutional investment firms in his private business. According to the Morning News and the American-Statesman, Mr. Agosto had prior business contacts with NEPC and was seeking the firm’s help in getting investment business for one of his clients.

– NEPC won the PSF contract from the state board despite submitting the highest bid and receiving the lowest ranking from the PSF’s professional staff. The firm’s first bid, $1.045 million per year, was more than twice the bid of each of its competitors, $430,000 and $448,251. NEPC subsequently lowered its bid to $580,000 per year, but even that figure was still the high bid by a substantial margin.

– Mr. Agosto suggested to the American-Statesman that questions about his relationship with NEPC were politically motivated. Some board members, he alleged, “like to use things like this … and create controversy, and they even have certain staff members on their side.” From the American-Statesman story:

“There is total mistrust between the staff and the board,” Agosto said. He lamented that (Texas Education Commissioner Robert) Scott, not the board, has the authority to hire or fire the investment staff.

That could change.

At the most recent Permanent School Fund meeting, the committee asked that a management study be conducted to look at adopting a structure similar to that of the University of Texas Investment Management Co., a private nonprofit corporation that oversees several higher education funds.

Such a change would put the staffing decisions solely in the hands of the State Board of Education.

So now some board members want even more authority over the Permanent School Fund. Specifically, they want the board to oversee the jobs of the finance professionals who help run the PSF for Texas taxpayers.

But there’s even more to this story that went unreported by the Dallas Morning News and the American-Statesman. TFN Insider digs deeper into this shady situation in Part II.