Monday, May 17, 2010

"Don't White-Out Our History" Rally

"Don't White-Out Our History" Rally
Wednesday, May 19, at 1:00 p.m.
Texas Education Agency, Austin
Click here to sign-up to attend the rally today!

Don't let the SBOE white-wash history! This rally is scheduled on the eve of the State Board of Education's final vote on the controversial new social studies standards. This is your chance to stand up to the state board.

Texas State Board of Education

The State Board of Education is the governing body that essentially determines what students learn in Texas public schools. The board is made up of 15 members, with each member elected from a single-member district. The governor appoints one of the board members to serve as chair, and the state Senate must confirm that appointment. The chair's tenure is limited to two consecutive terms.

Join the Texas Freedom Network's Just Educate campaign to reform the State Board of Education.

The board's specific policy authority, set out in statute and the state Constitution, includes the following areas:

establishing statewide curriculum standards for public school courses, including content knowledge and skills students are to master;

reviewing and adopting proposed textbooks for purchase by local school districts and ensuring that those textbooks conform to the statewide curriculum standards;

setting graduation requirements;

determining standards of performance for state-mandated assessment tests;

overseeing the investment of the state’s Permanent School Fund, which is funded through the sale and leasing of vast public
lands as well as royalties derived from mining on those lands;

approving the creation of specific charter schools; and

adopting regulations and standards for adult education programs provided by local school districts and institutions of higher education.

The board has long been a "culture war" battleground, but battles over divisive social issues have increasingly dominated the board's work in recent years. Religious conservatives began a concerted effort to take control of the state board beginning in 1992. Targeting first Democrats and then Republican incumbents, the board's far-right faction has grown in power since that time. In 2006 the faction grew to seven members, and Gov. Rick Perry chose one -- Don McLeroy, R-College Station -- as board chairman in 2007. Even though the state Senate refused to confirm McLeroy's appointment in 2009, the far-right faction continues to wield tremendous influence. In fact, the board continues to lurch from one divisive "culture war" battle to another on issues such as teaching creationism in public school science classes, insisting on abstinence-only policies in sex education, downplaying the contributions of minorities and different cultures in history, and blurring the line separating religion and government.

Many of the battles at the State Board of Education have centered on the development of curriculum standards and the adoption of textbooks. In fact, much of the Texas Freedom Network's efforts since 1995 have been focused on countering the far-right faction's efforts to promote personal and political agendas in curriculum and textbooks.

Social Studies Curriculum Standards

As part of a multi-year overhaul of the state’s curriculum standards for public schools, the State Board of Education is scheduled to adopt new social studies standards in May 2010. The board adopted new English/language arts standards in 2008 and new science standards in 2009. A common thread in all of these debates has the contempt of the board’s far-right faction for the work of the curriculum writing teams. Those teams include classroom teachers, curriculum specialists, scholars and other community members. But the board’s far-right faction has repeatedly worked to throw out or substantially revise the work of the writing teams and use the standards to advance ideological agendas. Click here to learn more about the debate over social studies curriculum standards.

Science Curriculum Revision Recap

During debate over new public school science standards in 2009, the Texas Freedom Network and other supporters of sound science education persuaded a majority of State Board of Education members to strip out a standards requirement that students learn about phony "weaknesses" of evolution. Evolution deniers and supporters of teaching "intelligent design"/creationism have long used that requirement across the country to undermine science instruction in public schools. Unfortunately, far-right pressure groups succeeded in opening the door to other creationist attacks on evolution in science classrooms. Publishers will submit science textbooks based on the new science standards in 2011. TFN will monitor that submission and adoption process and will work to counter efforts to dumb down science instruction on evolution.

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