State Board of Education

State Board of Education will review CSCOPE


Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican on the State Board of Education, announced today that the board will discuss the CSCOPE curriculum program at its meeting in September. And, he sharply criticized Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick for helping to create a wasteful “artificial controversy” over the program.

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog post, the Texas Education Agency has advised the state board that, despite Patrick’s efforts to kill CSCOPE, school districts are still free to use CSCOPE lesson plans because the Legislature didn’t enact a law abolishing the program. Instead, Patrick simply bullied the CSCOPE governing board into agreeing to remove the lesson plans and then prematurely declared the program dead. But now the same plans are in the public domain and can be picked up by any district wishing to use them.

CSCOPE, developed by regional education service centers, was designed to help school districts prepare lesson plans for teaching state educational requirements. Typically, using CSCOPE plans has not been mandatory, and many larger districts haven’t used them because they can afford to hire their own curriculum developers. But it has been an important tool in the educational tool box for some teachers, particularly in hundreds of small districts that can’t afford to hire extra curriculum help.

Patrick made a political issue of the program by pandering to a vocal minority of conspiracy theorists who didn’t like a couple of lesson plans and started branding the program as an anti-American plot. Meanwhile, small school districts have been scrambling for curriculum help in time for the new school year.

“It’s unfortunate that so much time, energy and taxpayer dollars have been wasted because Senator Patrick was too quick to run to the Senate Press Room before he fully vetted the policy and practical implications of his actions,” said Ratliff, who represents many school districts dependent on CSCOPE.

Ratliff said he was confident the State Board of Education “will do the right thing by providing transparency and accountability regarding these lessons and helping our local school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers stay focused on their important task at hand, rather than defending themselves against baseless political attacks.”

Let us hope so. Unfortunately, we are likely to hear more political rhetoric from Patrick, as he tries to gin up his right-wing base in his newly announced race for lieutenant governor. And, Attorney General Greg Abbott, another foe of CSCOPE and newly minted candidate for governor, also may chime in.


CSCOPE may get new life


A Senate education chairman – even a self-styled educational “evangelist” – can’t singlehandedly repeal a state program, not with all the bullying and bluster he can command.

I am talking, of course, about Sen. Dan Patrick, who a few months ago unilaterally declared the CSCOPE curriculum system dead, following complaints from a vocal minority of conspiracy-theorists who viewed the program as an anti-American, socialist plot to brainwash Texas students. Patrick thought he had successfully killed the program after he had bullied the system’s governing board to agree to remove all lesson plans by Aug. 31.

Now, it turns out, Patrick was wrong – again – because the lesson plans are now in the public domain and free to be picked up by any school district that wishes to use them. That was the assessment of the Texas Education Agency’s top lawyer, David Anderson, who told the State Board of Education that there is “no statute” that would prohibit districts from continuing to use CSCOPE lesson plans.

In other words, Chairman Patrick neglected to get a new law passed by a majority of the House and the Senate – basic legislative details.

CSCOPE, developed by regional educational service centers, is not an evil conspiracy. It was designed to help school districts prepare lesson plans for teaching state educational requirements. Many large school districts have their own curriculum directors and don’t need it. Typically, using CSCOPE lessons is not mandatory, but it has been an important tool in the educational tool box for some teachers, especially in hundreds of small districts that can’t afford to hire personnel to develop their own plans.

Many of those small districts have been scrambling for help since Patrick declared the program dead. Now, they may get a break in preparing for the new school year.

The final word, however, on the controversy may not have been issued. Attorney General Greg Abbott also has been a strong critic of CSCOPE. And, now that he is actively courting right-wing votes in his newly launched race for governor, don’t be surprised if he tries to find a way to re-bury the program.


Voucher supporters don’t get it


The members of the State Board of Education who dissented late last week when the board voted, 10-5, for a resolution urging the Legislature to reject private school vouchers, including tax-credit “scholarships,” were among the board’s more conservative members. But another conservative, first-termer Marty Rowley, a Republican from Amarillo, pointed out that there was nothing particularly liberal – or conservative — about wanting to save education tax dollars for public schools. Reserving tax money for public education is simply being fair to the vast majority of school children and is the correct thing to do.

“I am a limited-government conservative, and because of that it concerns me when I see taxpayer dollars going to the private sector,” he said, voting for the resolution.

Perhaps Rowley should sit down and have a chat with Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, who also professes to be a limited-government conservative but is a driving force behind the school privatization scheme.

Patrick’s Senate Bill 23, which would allow businesses to get tax credits for donating money for private school scholarships, may be debated by the full Senate this week. Whatever Patrick may call it, the bill would create a private school voucher program because the tax credits would take money away from public education for the benefit of private school operators.

A majority of the State Board of Education – five Democrats and five Republicans—now joins a bipartisan majority of the Texas House in going on record against spending public money on private schools. The House voted 103-43 earlier this month to put that prohibition into its version of the new state budget.

But Patrick and some of his Senate colleagues remain undeterred.

And at least one member of the State Board of Education who supports vouchers seems utterly confused.

Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas said she voted against the resolution because, “I believe in the American right to educate my children in the manner that I want.”

OK. But what does that have to do with vouchers?

If parents want to send their children to private school and can afford to do so, fine. But don’t take tax dollars away from public schools and undermine the education of most Texas school children.