Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Texas State Board of Education and the Lege

It appears that the Texas Legislature is waking up to the fact the State Board of Education has royally screwed our children and, by extension, the future of Texas.

Amazing when you consider that the legislature consists of a 101 to 49 Republican supermajority. Texans across the board think the SBOE crossed way over the line last year with their adoption of a "we have to stand up to the experts" expert-free social studies curriculum.

There are at least 11 bills making their tortured way through the process as we speak. Some call for the complete dissolution of the SBOE, others seek to reform it. Most noticeable are three that specifically deal with how the Board handles curriculum votes and those experts they like to ignore. One other demands the nullification of the social studies curriculum and would force the Board to reopen the standards.

It is my fervent hope that significant change comes to the State Board of Education. Here's my letter to my representative, Larry Gonzales.

As a Texas Freedom Network Lobby Day participant, I was able to meet with your Chief of Staff, Chris Sanchez to discuss our legislative agenda. I wanted to thank you and Mr. Sanchez for this opportunity. 
I believe it is critical that we do everything legislatively possible to rein in the State Board of Education. 
There are several House bills currently in committee that propose to do just that. In particular, HB 3257 and HB 3504 are both important steps in eliminating some of the more egregious tactics that Board has implemented in the past. HB 3257 would require that the Board make any amendments available for public review 3 business days prior to a vote and require the final version of the standards to be posted for at least 24 hours prior to final adoption. Currently, the board is able to make changes right up to the minute that the standards are voted on. This bill would allow much needed time for scholars and Board members alike to have ample time to review amendments and the final standards. HB 3504 goes one step further and requires a two-thirds vote by the Board to reject recommendations of curriculum and textbook review teams. Currently, as we saw to the state’s detriment last year, the Board only requires a simple majority vote to reject these recommendations. 
HB 2217 would nullify the social studies curriculum passed last year by the Board and force them to reopen the review of the standards. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy think tank, has said that the Board has created a “politicized distortion of history” through the adoption of the current standards. Educators, scholars and voters in Texas all agree that this curriculum needs serious review. 
These are but a few of the bills currently under review by the legislature; I would strongly urge you, as your constituent, to review all of the pending legislation and determine which ones you can support. The State Board of Education has made our proud state not only the laughing stock of the entire nation, but the world as well. Their blatant attempts to revise curriculum from a personal and political bias may well cost us jobs. Employers want to know that their prospective employee pool consists of people who have a firm grasp on history and science. Currently, this is problematic, at best. 
I left with Mr. Sanchez a list of the current bills pending or in committee. Please take the time to review this list and throw your support behind this vitally needed reform. As someone intimately connected with Texas education, I hope that you share my concerns with the direction the SBOE has taken.
I will mail it to him tomorrow. I'm not really expecting a reply. My last letter to him after the Equality Texas lobby day has so far gone unanswered. I'm also faxing a note to each member of the House Public Education committee expressing my interest in seeing these bills make it out of committee.

I'm tired of sitting back and letting the lege do it's thing every two years with no input from me. Here's hoping that being the squeaky wheel has some effect. At least they'll learn to cringe when my postmark crosses their desk.

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