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And the clown show gets underway again

Here’s your TFN liveblogging of today’s SBOE social studies hearings. Brian Thevenot of The Trib is also there, and he reports that an interesting character has asked the Board to slow down.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Houston Superintendent Rod Paige this morning asked the State Board of Education to delay adopting its new textbook standards, saying they had “swung too far” to the ideological right and diminished the importance of civil rights and slavery.

Asked after his comments by board member Rene Nunez, D-El Paso, whether the board should delay a final vote expected on Friday, Paige said: “Absolutely.”

In a prepared remarks and answers to board questions, Paige said the board needs to throw aside its history of making standards an ideological and political battleground. He acknowledged that previous boards dominated by more liberal members had committed the same offense, but asked the current board to “narrow the swing of the pendulum.”

“We in Texas have allowed ourselves to get into a position where we’ve allowed ideology to drive and define the standards of our Texas curriculum. We’ve swung from liberal to conservative with members of the board. It’s unreasonable to expect you to make decisions without some reference to your ideology, but we’ve swung too far from one way to the next, and I’m asking you to narrow the swing,” Paige said.

There’s no question that the Board does not want to wait, but as Thevenot wrote earlier, they may not have a choice. The same budget economics that forced a delay in purchasing new science textbooks are at work with social studies textbooks as well.

The financing delay likely will have the domino effect of pushing back legislative appropriations for new social studies books to the 2015 legislative session, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.

“It’s not clear when or if the new books will be published,” she said of science texts after Tuesday’s preliminary vote, which will have to be finalized Friday. She called the future of social studies books “a wildcard.” At the same time, the TEA and the instructional materials industry, both digital and print, are pushing forward under new legislation that both promotes electronic textbook development and weakens the SBOE’s historic purview over statewide curriculum.

“It could be a whole new publishing world by then,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s pretty much a giant puzzle.”

Even better, if the textbooks do get pushed back till then, the newer Board members are at least open to the idea of revisiting this whole sorry mess and doing it right.

Meanwhile, two Repubicans who will likely be joining the board in January — Thomas Ratliff and George Clayton, who each face token Libertarian opposition in the fall — along with a Democrat in a hotly contested race — Judy Jennings — said in interviews this week that they would support reopening the standards process in January, after they are sworn in, if consensus emerged on the newly constituted board. “I would defer to somebody who has been on the board for a while to approach me to reopen the standards,” said Ratliff, who defeated McLeroy. “But if they asked, I’d vote ‘yes’ to revisit.” Jennings and Clayton lent similar tentative support to the prospect of turning back the changes, which both have criticized in their campaigns.

“The State Board of Education isn’t supposed to be that damned interesting,” Clayton said.

You can say that again. More, so much more, from:

Musings (see also her Twitter feed)
Abby Rapoport
State Rep. Mike Villarreal
Hair Balls
Kate Alexander
Zahira Torres
Garry Scharrer

UPDATE: More from Abby Rapoport, Peggy Fikac, and Kate Alexander.

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