Archive for the ‘sex education’ Category

TX SBOE District 15 Candidates Talk Sex Ed

March 21, 2012

Someone needs to educate Marty Rowley about sex education.

Speaking on Tuesday at a candidate forum with Republican primary opponent Anette Carlisle, the Texas State Board of Education District 15 candidate explained why he supports an abstinence-only policy on sex education:

“I believe if we pass out condoms at schools we’re saying, ‘Yeah, we’re teaching you about abstinence, but we know you’re not going to pay attention to it, so here’s a condom to make sure that you don’t get pregnant.'”

Good grief. The issue isn’t about passing out condoms to students. In fact, state law bars public schools from distributing condoms as part of sex education classes. But it doesn’t bar schools from teaching students medically accurate information about contraception and STD prevention. Moreover, 80 percent of likely Texas voters, according to our 2010 statewide poll, support giving high school students that information along with emphasizing the importance of abstinence in sex education classes. And evidence shows that sex education actually gets teens to wait before starting to have sex.

Yet most school districts in Texas — a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation — teach abstinence-only or nothing at all about sex education (although we’re making progress in changing that). Abstinence-only advocates like Rowley try to scare parents into believing that teachers would otherwise be handing out condoms like it’s Halloween candy.

Speaking at the same candidate forum, which was sponsored by the Amarillo Tea Party Patriots, Carlisle said she supports an “abstinence-based” approach to sex education:

“I certainly believe in opt-out for parents if they don’t want their students in there. We need to give them knowledge so they don’t become victims of bad choices.”

Rowley and Carlisle are seeking election to the state board seat currently held by Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, who is leaving the board at the end of the year. Rowley is an attorney and former church pastor. Carlisle is the Amarillo school board president.

Rowley has been touting his support from members of the state board’s far-right bloc, including current board chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, and former chair Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas. Carlisle has a rather extensive list of endorsements, including support from current Republican board members Bob Craig and Thomas Ratliff  as well as local school board leaders and other education folks throughout West Texas.

While Rowley’s campaign website veers into areas like his anti-abortion views (an issue over which the state board has no authority at all), Carlisle’s website appears focused on education rather than “culture war” issues.

Steven Schafersman of Midland is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Click here for his campaign website.

You can learn more about all SBOE races and candidates at TFN’s election online HQ here.


Aspirin as Birth Control

February 16, 2012

It’s thinking like this that filters down to school sex ed policies and gives states such as Texas a horrible track record with teen birthrates:

“Back in my days, we used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

That was said today by mutual fund manager Foster Friess, who — along with his deep pockets — is supporting Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum.

Let us repeat: That was said today, in the 21st century, not a hundred years ago.

Seriously, these guys are giving us a headache. If only there was something we could take for that. If only.

Texas Science Education Battle in 2013

February 1, 2012

After several years of especially divisive “culture war” battles over what Texas public school students should learn about evolution, history and other subjects, the State Board of Education last week decided that it will adopt new science textbooks for all schools in 2013. The new adoption schedule also has the board approving textbooks for history and social studies in 2014.

The decision to adopt new science and social studies textbooks comes after the board adopted controversial curriculum standards for both in recent years — science in 2009 and social studies in 2010. Independent reports over the past year have given both sets of standards poor marks.

Yesterday, for example, a report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute criticized the 2009 science standards in Texas as “riddled with errors,” “sketchy,” “redundant,” and “woefully imbalanced.” Last year a Fordham report called the American history standards adopted in 2010 a “politicized distortion” of American history filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.” And last fall a report for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Social Studies Faculty Collaborative warned that the social studies standards are “ineffective,” “fail to meet the state’s college readiness standards,” and “ignore the principles of sound pedagogy.”

Even so, the board will now ask publishers to submit new textbooks based on those deeply flawed standards. All of this comes after the board last summer adopted online instructional materials for some science courses. Working with our friends at the National Center for Science Education, Texas Citizens for Science and other organizations, we succeeded in keeping off of that adoption list any materials promoting creationism/”intelligent design” and related anti-science arguments.

However, the coming adoption of science and social studies textbooks highlights the importance of State Board of Education elections this year. In fact, all 15 of the state board’s seats are up for grabs in 2012. That means the primary elections this spring and the general election in November will determine whether the board’s far-right creationist bloc controls decisions about which science and social studies textbooks students will use for nearly a decade. (Check out TFN’s SBOE Election Watch page here.)

Based on the state board’s decisions last week, this how the schedule for adopting textbooks and other instructional materials looks going forward (estimated costs for purchasing new materials in parentheses):

  • 2013: Science, Grades K-12; Math, K-8; Technology applications ($625.65 million)
  • 2014: Social studies, K-12; Math, 9-12; Fine Arts ($683.18 million)
  • 2015: Languages other than English ($78.82 million)
  • 2016: Career and technical education ($103.67 million)
  • 2017: English Language Arts and Reading, K-5, Prekindergarten Systems ($536.46 million)
  • 2018: English Language Arts and Reading, 6-12; Health; Physical Education ($663.14 million)

The state board is likely to revise and adopt curriculum standards (on which textbooks and other instructional materials must be based) according to the following schedule:

  • 2012: Math curriculum standards adoption
  • 2013: Fine arts curriculum standards adoption
  • 2014: Languages other than English curriculum standards adoption
  • 2015: Career technology education curriculum standards adoption
  • 2016: English Language Arts and Reading curriculum standards adoption
  • 2017: Science and health/physical education curriculum standards adoptions (Health standards include guidelines on sex education.)
  • 2018: Social studies curriculum standards adoption

So next year the Texas Freedom Network will once again be mobilizing supporters of science education to stop creationists on the state board from dumbing down instruction on evolution in new textbooks and other materials. And you can be sure that we will be leading the fight for sound textbooks and curriculum standards each year afterward.

Never Have Sex!

December 29, 2011

The Houston Chronicle has an article about the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund study showing that more school districts in the state are finally adding information about contraception to sex education classes. But here’s what a representative of the abstinence-only lobby told the newspaper about what schools should be telling teens when it comes to sexuality and health:

“We tell them what we know: They should never do it.”

The solution is just to tell teens “never have sex”? The vast majority of people will have sex at some point in their lives. But never mind that — just what does he think Texas schools have been doing anyway? For decades the vast majority have been simply telling teens to abstain. In fact, Texas has received more federal abstinence-0nly funding than any other state — and it still has one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation.

Pro-ignorance, abstinence-only activists want all of us to bury our heads in the sand. But Texas parents know we have to change course — 80 percent of likely voters in the state support teaching teens about contraception along with the importance of abstinence. So TFN will keep working to ensure that even more Texas students have access to the medically accurate information they need to protect their health and their future. Just click here and we’ll tell you how you can help in your own community.

Bigotry and Ignorance from TX Eagle Forum

December 5, 2011

Texas Eagle Forum’s December “News and Notes” e-newsletter offers more of the bigotry and pro-ignorance rhetoric we’ve come to expect from that far-right group.

Part of TEF President Pat Carlson’s email notes a Dallas Morning News report about a whisper campaign that led State Board of Education member George Clayton, R-Richardson, to acknowledge recently that he is gay. The newsletter continues:

Because of redistricting, all 15 SBOE seats will be up for election in 2012. We need to recruit and elect/re-elect true conservatives to these important positions so Texas will not go the way of Massachusetts or California in mandating K-12 pro-homosexual education in the classroom.

Gay people can’t be “true conservatives”? Perhaps Carlson’s version of a “true conservative” is one who promotes fear and hate toward people who are different. And what exactly does she mean by a “pro-homosexual education in the classroom”? To our knowledge, Clayton has never even mentioned the issue of sexual orientation in his time on the state board (not, at least, until his personal life was the subject of a whisper campaign by political opponents). Most likely, Carlson simply wants to make sure that state board members don’t object to efforts by far-right pressure groups to demonize gay people in textbooks and other instructional materials, as they tried during the adoption of health textbooks in 2004.

And speaking of health, Carlson’s e-newsletter also noted the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s new report showing that more public school districts in the state are moving toward an abstinence-plus approach on sex education. Carlson’s group insists on abstinence-only sex ed policies that keep young people ignorant about even basic, medically accurate information on contraception and disease prevention. From the TEF e-newsletter:

The ONLY PROVEN method to prevent teenage pregnancy is abstinence. Abstinence-plus education gives kids mixed messages—“don’t have sex, but if you do, use a condom.” Condoms and other forms of contraception do not “protect” a teen’s heart and mind from emotional distress and pain, nor prevent pregnancy or STDs 100% of the time; only abstinence does.

What Carlson doesn’t want her readers to know is that Texas has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation yet has received more federal abstinence-only funding than any other state. Even now most school districts in the state teach abstinence-only or nothing at all when it comes to sex education. In a state where, on average, a teen gets pregnant ever 10 minutes and teen childbearing costs taxpayers about $1.2 billion annually, abstinence-only ignorance clearly hasn’t been a good education strategy.

Progress on Sex Ed in Texas

November 21, 2011

Click Image to Enlarge

Today we’re able to bring you some encouraging news on the state of sex education in Texas (for a change). The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund just released a new report that documents a surge in the percentage of school districts going beyond abstinence-only instruction to include basic information about contraception.

Bottom line: just over 25 percent of districts now report taking an abstinence-plus approach to sex education. That compares to just 3.6 percent of districts doing so three short years ago – a 600 percent increase. As a result, thousands more Texas students are learning basic, factual information about both contraception and abstinence.

While this represents significant progress, much work remains to be done. You can help TFN keep up the momentum for change by:

Read the full report here at

Our press release after the jump. (more…)

‘Drug-Based Sex Education’ Redux

November 2, 2011

In our latest episode of “Liberty Institute Says the Darndest Things,” we look at the Focus on the Family Texas affiliate’s use of a fear-mongering term we’ve covered before, but this time we have audio of it.

We’re talking about “drug-based sex education,” an absurd construction used (maybe even coined) by LI’s Austin-based lawyer/lobbyist any time he argues against comprehensive sex education and for the failed abstinence-only programs that dominate sex education classes in Texas schools.

Move Over, Gov. Perry

October 24, 2011

We’ve chronicled Gov. Rick Perry‘s support for abstinence-only policies on sex education, including his odd statements on the topic in an interview with the Texas Tribune a while back.

Now, as he runs for the White House, Gov. Perry seems to have been outdone, beaten in a battle of extremists by one of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

Former Pennsylvania senator and current GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently gave us an idea of what he thinks sex education should be like in this country. Indeed, if he had anything to do about it, sex education likely wouldn’t include a shred of information about contraception:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

So would a President Santorum seek a return to the days when government could bar the use of contraception, even for consenting adults and among married couples? Sure sounds like it.

We’re No. 2? Oh. Yay.

September 2, 2011

File this under good news that you can still feel ashamed about.


Putting Ideology Ahead of Common Sense

June 7, 2011

Religious-right pressure groups have been on the warpath throughout the regular and special sessions of the Texas Legislature this year. They have made cutting funds for women’s health programs and, especially, providers like Planned Parenthood a priority. Late last week, for example, the Texas Pastor Council sent out an email to activists calling for the Texas Legislature to approve “the complete defunding of Planned Parenthood from tax dollars.” Their goal, these groups claim, is to keep tax dollars out of the hands of abortion providers. But state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, revealed that such claims are little more than a lie when he admitted that he and his allies on the right are engaged in “a war on birth control, abortion, everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.”

In truth, the religious right is engaged in an all-out assault on common sense when it comes to women’s health and responsible disease and pregnancy prevention. And that assault is based on an ideologically driven and dangerously misguided desire to control the private decisions that individuals make about their own health and reproductive lives.


Texas House Could Vote on Sex Ed Today

May 18, 2011

Today responsible, evidence-based sex education could get a vote on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, has filed his Education Works! bill, HB 1624, as an amendment to important fiscal legislation pending in the House.

The amendment, which the Texas Freedom Network supports, would direct school districts that teach sex education to provide evidence-based, age-appropriate, comprehensive information on both contraception and abstinence.


‘Abstinence Works’ Brings Storks

May 4, 2011

This was Gov. Rick Perry a few months ago:

I’m going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works!

Well, Gov. Perry, no. No, it does not. Not if you’re talking about abstinence-only programs in schools, as the governor was last October in an interview with the Texas Tribune.

We wonder how many Texas teens have been visited by the stork in the months since Gov. Perry made this comment.

Since this is Texas, the answer is probably way too many.

We’re bringing up the quote again today because May 4 is National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, an area in which the state of Texas does a woefully poor job and Gov. Perry’s comment is indicative of the stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears, head-in-the-sand mentality that is costing Texas taxpayers $1 billion annually in teen childbearing costs.

Texas consistently ranks near the top of states with the highest teen birth rates. It also has the highest rate of repeat births to teenage girls.

Yet the state almost exclusively relies on teaching abstinence-only in public schools to get these rates under control. More than 9 in 10 Texas school districts teach abstinence-only and the state spends the most federal dollars on what is clearly a failed policy.

But, “abstinence works!” according to Gov. Perry.

Unfortunately, he isn’t the only one doing his best to ignore the problem. In the current legislative session, at least two bills have been filed that would direct school districts to teach responsible, age-appropriate and evidence-based sex-education in schools. Those bills — HB 1624 by state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and SB 852 by state Sens. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio — have yet to get so much as a committee hearing.

So on the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the Texas Freedom Network is calling on lawmakers to stop ignoring the teen pregnancy problem in Texas.

TFN sent out the following press release today:


‘Drug-based Sex Education’?

March 10, 2011

On Tuesday we saw this absurd headline on the blog of one of the most extreme right-wing groups in Texas:

“Planned Parenthood & Texas Freedom Network Team Up to Push Drug-Based Sex Education”

“Drug-Based Sex Education”? Good grief.

The headline referred to TFN helping high school and college students from around Texas advocate that day at the Capitol in Austin for responsible sex education in public schools. An in-depth TFN Education Fund report in 2009 revealed that more than 95 percent of public school districts in Texas teach abstinence-only or nothing at all when it comes to sex education. That statistic is especially alarming in a state with one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation. Clearly, keeping young people ignorant hasn’t been an effective sex education strategy. In fact, ignorance puts teens at serious risk and threatens their health and their futures.

But rather than debate a serious issue in a serious way, right-wing pressure groups and abstinence-only ideologues rely on lies and fear-mongering.


The Right Lies Again in the TX Speaker Battle

December 13, 2010

TFN Insider has already reported about the religious campaign the far right has been waging against Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Now PolitiFact offers a clear example of how the religious right is also spreading distortions and falsehoods in the effort to replace Straus with another speaker far more likely to obey their commands on radical social policies.

PolitiFact notes today that Texas Eagle Forum has claimed that Straus “was co-author of a bill that would have allowed Planned Parenthood to control public school sex education.” But after looking at the public record, PolitiFact rates that claim as a “Pants on Fire” lie.


Not Encouraging

November 13, 2010

We were worried that Carlos “Charlie” Garza, who defeated Democratic incumbent Rene Nuñez, would align with the Texas State Board of Education‘s far-right faction. A newspaper interview with the El Paso Republican isn’t encouraging.

According to the El Paso Times interview, which was published November 7, Garza thinks public schools should teach “multiple views” about evolution — regardless, apparently, of the mainstream scientific consensus — and supports efforts by anti-science board members to water down instruction on this foundational scientific concept:

“Creationism I believe is true. I believe there should be a good mix. I think what the board did was bring in a mix.”