Texas Death Match between school board, legislature
A Wall Street Journal article says,
Texas state legislators are considering reining in the Board of Education amid frustration with the board's politically charged debate over how to teach evolution.
The board last month approved a science curriculum that opens the door for teachers and textbooks to introduce creationist objections to evolution's explanation of the origin and progression of life forms.
Not all objections to evolution theory are creationist.
Other parts of the curriculum were carefully worded to raise doubts about global warming and the big-bang theory of how the universe began.
While the science standards have drawn the most attention, the 15-member elected board has been embroiled in other controversies as well. Last year, it rejected a reading curriculum that teachers had spent nearly three years drafting. In its place, the board approved a document that a few members hastily assembled just hours before the vote.
Yeah, that last-minute change in the reading curriculum was really bad -- much worse than anything the board did with the science standards.
Some lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- say they have had enough.
The most far-reaching proposals would strip the Texas board of its authority to set curricula and approve textbooks. Depending on the bill, that power would be transferred to the state education agency, a legislative board or the commissioner of education. Other bills would transform the board to an appointed rather than elected body, require Webcasting of meetings, and take away the board's control of a vast pot of school funding. Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, hasn't taken a position on specific bills, a spokeswoman said.
Transferring the board's powers to non-elected officials is stupid -- it would eliminate direct accountability to the voters.
As for the webcasting of meetings, that is already done by audio -- it is now proposed that video webcasting be added. IMO video is not going to make much difference in most cases.
Board members, who aren't paid, object to most legislative meddling.
"As crazy as the Texas Board of Education is, there are just as many crazies, percentage-wise, in the state Legislature," said board member Pat Hardy.
Demagogic Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius got hell from the Kansas board of education chairman for trying a similar power grab.  She scapegoated the state board of education for the state's economic problems and compared the board to Fred Phelps' "god hates fags" hate group.
Another member, Cynthia Dunbar, said the board's fierce debates should be seen as a sign that all views are well represented.
While the Legislature debates the board's future, candidates on the left and right are gearing up for 2010, when eight seats will be on the ballot. Results of that election could affect how the new science standards are interpreted -- and which biology texts the board approves in 2011. Texas is one of about 20 states that require local districts to buy only textbooks approved by the state board.
Local Texas school districts can use Texas-unapproved textbooks if the districts pay the full cost. A biology textbook that costs, say, $100 and is used for five years costs an average of only about $20 per year per student.
Over the years, the Texas board has been aggressive about editing submitted textbooks before granting approval. Publishers have been asked to delete -- among other things -- favorable references to Islam, discussions of global warming, and illustrations of breast and testicular self-exams, according to the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit that calls itself a counterweight to the religious right. . . . .
. . . .Kenneth R. Miller, co-author of several popular biology textbooks, said he inserted a header about the "strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory" before bringing his latest book before the board several years ago.
But Mr. Miller, a professor at Brown University, said the text below the header was unchanged from previous editions. It explored "unsolved puzzles of evolution," such as why sexual reproduction is ubiquitous or how the first life arose. None of the questions, he said, cast doubt on the basic premise of evolution.
I left comments here and here on the blog of the Texas Freedom Network.
Labels: Texas controversy (new #2)