The clown show finally calls it a wrap

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some other state to be the national laughingstock again. The Court of Criminal Appeals gives it a good run for its money, but you just can’t out-embarrass the SBOE, and every time they meet it gets worse. All I can say is thank goodness that two of the worst of these clowns will never hold public office again.

Anyway, here’s your wrapup from the Day Two festivities, which carried over a few minutes past midnight and into Day Three, from the Trib, TFN, and Abby Rapoport. And here’s your Day Three liveblogging and other reports, from TFN, the Trib, TFN again, the Trib again, Abby Rapoport, and Steven Schafersman. Mainstream media coverage is here, here, and here. Burka and Stace also weigh in, and of course Martha was working it on Twitter. May those who had to endure all this get a nice long vacation to recover their sanity.

Most of the heavy lifting came during Thursday’s marathon session. Friday was about finishing touches and final votes. The highlight was the restoration of Thomas Jefferson to the world history curriculum, reversing a decision that has drawn the most derision from pretty much everywhere on the planet. That’s good for TJ, but not so much for his fellow Enlightenment figure James Madison, who didn’t make the cut. The lowlight, if you have to pick just one, was the Board’s ratification of the idea that there is no “separation of church and state”. As noted by the Trib:

[M]embers this afternoon passed an amendment to the state’s socials studies standards calling for students to “contrast” the intent of the nation’s founders with the notion of separation of church and state.

It reads: “Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase, ‘separation of church and state.’”

The motion came from Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, a moderate Republican who worked on the language with arch-conservative former chair Don McLeroy, R-Bryan. With the exception of the adding the word “compare” along with “contrast” and including some verbiage directly from the First Amendment, what the board passed mirrored what McLeroy had originally proposed.

I have several statements, from the Texas Freedom Network, Bill White, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, and Fort Bend County Democratic Party Chair Stephen Brown, about this travesty beneath the fold. Texas Politics has a reaction from US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who echoes former Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige. The only thing we can do about this is elect some better SBOE members. Three such candidates running this year are Judy Jennings, Rebecca Bell-Metereau, and Michael Soto. The TDP got video statements from all three at the meeting, which you can see below:

Here’s a video of TFN President Kathy Miller, whose group has been a stalwart all throughout this process and which deserves your support as much as any candidate:

We can’t afford any more of this crap. We have a chance to do something about it this year. Please help these folks out.

From TFN:

The Texas State Board of Education today gutted a key protection for religious freedom by suggesting in new social studies curriculum
standards for public schools that separation of church and state is not a key principle of the Constitution, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said.

“This board simply decided to ignore mainstream constitutional scholarship, a long and consistent history of Supreme Court decisions and even the beliefs of the vast majority of Texans,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “The new standard suggests that separation of church and state isn’t a key principle in our Constitution. Otherwise, why ask students to ‘contrast’ the First Amendment with ‘separation of church and state’? You contrast opposing ideas, not ideas that complement each other.”

The board approved the following curriculum standard for high school government classes: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed it free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase ‘separation of church and state.’”

A poll conducted May 4-12 for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund by the national firm of Greenberg Rosner Quinlan Research showed that 68 percent of likely voters in Texas believe “separation of church and state is a key principle of our Constitution.” The poll question and data are available at

The state board’s decision not to postpone adoption of the standards today came after board members made hundreds of changes at meetings in January, March and May to drafts submitted last fall by curriculum teams. Those teams of teachers and scholars drafted those standards over much of 2009. The board refused to invite academic experts to be present at those meetings to guide their work and review their amendments before voting.

“Parents have reason to be alarmed when politicians decide they know better than teachers and academic experts what our children should learn in their classrooms,” Miller said. “At the very least, the board should have appointed a panel of real experts to review these heavily revised standards for accuracy and appropriateness for our kids’ classrooms. But today politics triumphed over common sense as well as the education of our schoolchildren.”

From Bill White:

“The State Board of Education, led by a Perry appointee, created a political circus and undermined the independence of public education from politics. When people see Texas as a place with political agendas in schools, it hurts our ability to attract entrepreneurs and new businesses.

Instead of politicians spending their time editing textbooks, we need leaders who will push electronic textbooks forward to save money and create a better variety of courses for Texas students.

Today, I visited an innovative school, New Tech High School in Coppell ISD near Dallas. Students there use online materials almost exclusively, but the state requires taxpayers to fund a full set of expensive textbooks anyway. In history classes, students study original historical documents online. We need a governor who leads Texas education forward with opportunities like this, rather than one who creates an atmosphere in which politicians use classrooms to serve their political agendas.”

From State Rep. Mike Villarreal:

State Rep. Mike Villarreal blasted the State Board of Education’s vote today in favor of new social studies standards for Texas public schools. This week Rep. Villarreal convened San Antonio community members to express their opposition to the Board’s proposal and delivered an online petition urging Board members to prioritize education before their own personal ideological agendas. Today Rep. Villarreal stated:

I am disturbed that a majority of the Board decided their own political agendas were more important than the education of Texas children. We need to roll up our sleeves and build the state into an education powerhouse, but instead the Board is turning the state into a punch line.

They have ignored historians and teachers, allowing ideological activists to push the culture war further into our classrooms. They fail to understand that we don’t want liberal textbooks or conservative textbooks. We want excellent textbooks, written by historians instead of activists.

The Legislature will not stand by and allow the Board to continue abusing their authority. During the next legislative session we will review our options for reining in the Board and pass reforms that protect Texas schoolchildren.

Students are the future of our state. They don’t deserve to be treated as a pawn in a political game.

From Stephen Brown:

Fort Bend County Democratic Chair Steve Brown issued the following statement regarding the adoption of new high school curriculum by the State Board of Education:

As I was attending my son’s kindergarten awards ceremony this morning, conservatives on Texas’ State Board of Education were rewriting the history that he will one day study.

“Their attempt to water down the contributions made by minorities and elevate the profile of conservatives does a severe disservice to Texas’ diverse school children expecting a holistic view of national and world history.

“Our students aren’t robots, and they should be granted every opportunity to explore history from every point of view. That includes those points of view that may not fit neatly into their particular political prism.

“Let’s hope the Legislature is wise enough not to buy any textbooks reflecting this Board’s flawed revisionist history.”

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