Month: <span>June 2014</span>

Teach Common Core and go to jail?


Extremist may not be a strong enough word to describe the education critics who met recently in Austin to rail at the modern world, castigate compromise and entertain the idea of jailing teachers who dared to use the Common Core in their classrooms.

There were only a few dozen individuals at this particular conference, according to the Texas Observer article linked below, and their mindset was trapped in a time warp just this side of the Middle Ages. But, what’s scary is that their views are increasingly taking over the Texas Republican Party and, with it, Texas government.

In fact, at least two of the attendees – state Rep. Bill Zedler of Arlington and Eagle Forum leader Cathie Adams – are prominent in the ultraconservative GOP wing, and Adams is a former chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party.

Scarier still for those of you who know anything about Zedler and Adams is that, according to the Observer, those two were the “relative moderates” in the room.

The group’s basic beef was against Common Core, the national curriculum standards being pushed by the federal government but outlawed by the Texas Legislature, even though many of the standards are incorporated in Texas’ TEKS curriculum standards.

Even reasonable minds can disagree over what should or shouldn’t be in Common Core and whether the federal government should be involved in promoting it. But to members of this particular group, Common Core represents everything they view as wrong with the world, beginning with public school classrooms – including evolution, acceptance of climate change, sex education, social justice, homosexuality and anything smacking of diversity.

“You use Common Core, you go to jail,” one woman declared, obviously wondering where the Storm Troopers and the Thought Police were when she needed them.



Abbott: Still making the wrong kind of news on education


Attorney General Greg Abbott loses so many lawsuits – while wasting your tax dollars – that still another loss barely rates as news anymore. Just yesterday, while a visiting state judge was strongly denying Abbott’s attempt to remove state District Judge John Dietz from the school finance lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court was rebuffing Abbott’s latest challenge of federal regulations of greenhouse gas emissions.

Abbott not only wants Texas kids to have to put up with an underfunded, unfair school finance system, he apparently also expects them to wear gas masks to school.

Abbott’s attempt to get Dietz removed from the long-running school finance case was newsy because it was so blatantly political. Dietz already has ruled against the current school finance system once and, more likely than not, he is about to hand Abbott his head (figuratively, of course) with a similar, follow-up decision that the funding law remains inadequate and unconstitutional.

Abbott was trying to delay the inevitable – and more negative publicity during his campaign for governor – by pulling an eleventh-hour political stunt to delay a final ruling from Dietz.

In his decision against Abbott, visiting Judge David Peeples of San Antonio said he “emphatically rejects any suggestion” that Dietz had intentionally communicated improperly with attorneys representing plaintiffs, including more than 600 school districts, trying to get the current funding system overturned.

As attorney general, Abbott continues to defend an indefensible school finance system, including $5.4 billion in school budget cuts. Imagine the political havoc he could wreak on public schools as governor.



Abbott’s and the GOP’s anti-education platform


If Greg Abbott and the Republicans who made him their gubernatorial nominee have their way, the war on public education in Texas will be renewed, beginning with further cuts in funding for both public schools and higher education.

Abbott, you will recall, continues to defend an inadequate school funding system, including $5.4 billion in budget cuts imposed by the legislative majority three years ago. Now, like-minded delegates to the recent Republican State Convention adopted a party platform that includes the following plank: “Since data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement, and higher education costs are out of control, we support reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of educational institutions.”

The only “data” these backward-thinking ideologues are talking about is something they pulled out of their ears. You cannot have sustained educational achievement without paying for it. Whether Abbott and the platform writers like it or not, public school enrollment in Texas is growing by about 80,000 students a year. Additional money is needed to meet the demand for enough teachers to keep class sizes from getting out-of-hand and to equip those teachers with the resources their students need for success.

Republicans who can do the math realize that and will choose to ignore the platform, but it won’t go away. And, it does represent Abbott’s thinking. Not only does he continue to defend the earlier school budget cuts, he also has dismissed pre-kindergarten expenditures as a “waste” of money when, in fact, research – real research—has shown the importance of early childhood education programs.

Based on other language in the GOP platform, the party’s official solution to the growth of Texas public schools is to seal the border with Mexico. But that isn’t going to happen, folks, nor should it. Another platform plank calls on the Legislature to enact a law prohibiting undocumented children from receiving free educations in public schools, although the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional years ago.

Abbott supports the school privatization advocates whose methodology is to underfund the public schools, declare them a failure and then privatize them by diverting tax dollars to unproven schemes such as private school vouchers and virtual or corporate-operated charters.

Here is the school privatization plank in the new Republican Party platform: “We encourage the Governor and the Texas Legislature to enact child-centered school funding options which fund the student, not schools or districts, to allow for maximum freedom of choice in public, private or parochial education for all children.”

Freedom of choice? Baloney. It’s a license to milk private profit from public tax dollars.

The platform also includes language seeking to undermine those long-time conservative targets – the teaching of evolution and sex education in public schools.

The platform also states: “We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems.”

Nothing was said, however, about the growing presence of Muslims in Texas and the public school system.

My thanks to the Burnt Orange Report for scoring a platform draft. Last time I checked, the Republican Party had not posted the platform on its website. Wonder why.




Bad news for a North Texas school district


Watching bigots in public places fall all over themselves with apologies has become something of a spectator sport in this day of social media. But it is far from entertaining.

The latest example comes from the Keller ISD in suburban Fort Worth, where newly elected school board member Jo Lynn Haussmann went on Facebook to berate voters in the community of Southlake for electing a Muslim to their city council. “What a SHAME!!!!!” she lamented.

The comments quickly blew up in her face. There were messages against her comments on social media, critical emails to the news media and a repudiation from other board members, who now will decide if the new trustee violated the board’s code of conduct.

Haussmann has apologized, both publicly and in a personal phone call to the Muslim surgeon who was the target of her comments. And she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “I can’t believe I did anything so stupid.”

It may be easier to believe than she wants to admit, however, because she has made anti-Muslim comments before. According to the Star-Telegram, she posted this comment on a YouTube video during the 2012 presidential campaign: “DON’T SELL OUT YOUR COUNTRY TO BE A SOCIALIST/COMMUNIST NATION BY NOT VOTING ROMNEY!…I’d rather have a Mormon with HIGH MORALS than a muslim!” (Mormons may consider that a back-handed endorsement, at best.)

Of course, neither President Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden, his running mate, is a Socialist, a Communist or a Muslim. But Haussmann has given a strong indication, at least twice now, of being a bigot.

Even without her bigoted comments, she may be bad news for educators, students and parents in Keller ISD, a fast-growing, suburban school district that needs strong support from state government as well as local taxpayers. Her supporters included the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party and Empower Texans, groups intent on starving public schools and other critical public services.