With state Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) announcing his retirement earlier in the week it has had a domino effect throughout Williamson County. Freshman tea party state in HD-20 Rep. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) is throwing his hat, and a lot of money, into the race. The other Williamson County freshman tea party state in HD-52 Rep. Larry Gonzalez (R-Round Rock) is going to stay put.
With Schwertner stepping down that leaves 2 open state House seats in Williamson County in 2010, (with the new HD 149 being an open seat as well). First-term State Board of Education (SBOE) District 10 member Marsha Farney will be running to replace Schwertner in HD-20, along with Jeff Fleece (who ran against Mark Strama in 2006). With Farney moving on that leaves SBOE District 10 as an open seat, it includes Williamson, part of Travis and several other counties.
Ogden’s retirement, and the resultant dominoes, creates several opportunities for getting some fresh faces elected in and around Williamson County. This past session saw the GOP dominated Texas legislature again put the burden of the budget shortfall on the backs of poor, working, and middle class Texans, while the GOP and their rich donors got off scot-free. Little will change in Texas and Williamson County if these races are allowed to be treated as if they were regal successions.
While Ogden was no moderate in the Senate, replacing him with Schwertner, would be like being represented by the likes of Michelle Bachmann, or worse, in the state Senate. He recently told the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce hat if it was up to him he would eliminate ALL social programs. He likely sees public education as a social program as well.
We need candidates to run that will put those of us who been left out of the debate for to long – poor, working and middle class Texans – first again. Candidates that will truly make education financing fair and the number one priority in Texas, because education is the best economic development ever created. Candidates that will vow to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – programs that keep the elderly and most vulnerable among us out of poverty – at all costs. We must have candidates that will show a contrast to the current crop of wealthy elected officials in Williamson County. This would be a good platform to run on, Rebuild the American Dream.
The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) live-blogged yesterday’s hearing in three parts, (Part I, Part II, and Part III).
Burnt Orange report has video of the three Democratic candidates that are running for the State Board of Education (SBOE), SBOE Hearings Continue: Tweet & Donate! Including this one below from the candidate in District 10, which includes Williamson County, Judy Jennings. In the video Jennings says, if elected, she will explore the possibility of rescinding any parts of of the Social Studies curriculum that are passes that are based on ideology and not historical fact.
One thing yesterday’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) hearing on the Texas State Borad of Education (SBOE) highlighted was, why the SBOE has been able to get away with mangling science and now social studies/history curriculum for Texas public schools. For the most part they’ve been able to operate below the radar and not held accountable for their actions. That changed yesterday when state Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer (D-San Antonio) held a hearing.
The first thing that came to light, even before the hearing started, was that the head of the SBOE didn’t want to show up, SBOE Chairwoman Gail Lowe Ducks Texas Lawmakers. Would Lowe have been subject to tough questioning? If having to come before legislators to defend the board’s recent actions is tough questioning, then the answer is yes. But to the average Texans it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for a governor’s appointee to show up, when asked, by elected leaders.
Rick Perry appointee and Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott described the process involving the curriculum changes under consideration by the SBOE as “payback” while testifying at a hearing at the Texas State Capitol.
The first person to testify during the hearing was Robert Scott, Texas Education Commissioner. During his testimony, questions were raised about the curriculum process and why certain decisions were made. Scott responded to the questions by justifying the SBOE’s controversial changes as “payback.“
I transcribed the key part from his testimony — video archive will be available after the hearing:
“One of the things, I think, that has been a problem in all of our deliberations regarding – whether it’s education or anything else – is that when you push out a particular group, and say we don’t care about you, when you push out, regardless of who that is, over time that creates a problem. And when the pendulum swings back, you know, there’s – whether you call it payback or a shifting in the alignment – I think that we need to be mindful as we deliberate to try to prevent the pushing out of any group, regardless of who they are. And that’s what I think this process needs to be about.”
Scott’s remarks are disgusting. Unequivocally disgusting.
There will be rousing debate in Austin later this week when the State Board of Education (SBOE) meets in Austin starting tomorrow. To get ready for the debate this week over the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies curriculum below are some key articles.
Don McLeroy is a balding, paunchy man with a thick broom-handle mustache who lives in a rambling two-story brick home in a suburb near Bryan, Texas. When he greeted me at the door one evening last October, he was clutching a thin paperback with the skeleton of a seahorse on its cover, a primer on natural selection penned by famed evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr. We sat down at his dining table, which was piled high with three-ring binders, and his wife, Nancy, brought us ice water in cut-crystal glasses with matching coasters. Then McLeroy cracked the book open. The margins were littered with stars, exclamation points, and hundreds of yellow Post-its that were brimming with notes scrawled in a microscopic hand. With childlike glee, McLeroy flipped through the pages and explained what he saw as the gaping holes in Darwin’s theory. “I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say,” he declared at one point. “Evolution is hooey.” This bled into a rant about American history. “The secular humanists may argue that we are a secular nation,” McLeroy said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis. “But we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”
When the State Board of Education meets this week to tackle revisions to the social studies curriculum in Texas public schools, some of the most contentious public debate is likely to center on recommendations by two men who want more emphasis on the role of Christianity in how the nation was formed.
The ideas submitted by well-known Christian conservatives David Barton and the Rev. Peter Marshall could influence how social studies is taught in Texas for the next decade. The board’s final decision on the social studies curriculum is expected in March.
Among the reviewers, Barton has been the most vocal proponent of teaching about religion’s impact in American history. When other reviewers submitted their first drafts of curriculum revisions, the average length of their suggestions was 13 pages. Barton’s initial recommended changes were 87 pages long and included everything from minute language shifts to major changes that would show students the importance of Christianity in shaping the country’s history.
“The story that people like Barton tell about the decline of America at least in some ways tracks with the idea that God was kicked out of public education,” said Robert Kunzman, associate professor of education at Indiana University, who recently wrote “Write These Laws On Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling.”
Board members Barbara Cargill and Cynthia Dunbar voted for Marshall’s inclusion in the reviewers’ group. Marshall lives in Massachusetts and attended Yale University and Princeton Theological Seminary before beginning his ministry in 1977.
Like Texans need a Massachusetts elitist to tell us what to teach our kids in school.
Battles are shaping up for three seats held by social conservatives, both in the Republican primary and with Democrats lined up to seek a pair of those seats in the fall general election.
On the other side, a GOP candidate with social conservative leanings is seeking to knock off a longtime Republican incumbent in West Texas. That could give social conservatives a shot at their first majority on the 15-member board.
The winners will help make critical decisions on such things as the new science and history books that will be used in Texas schools in the next decade. And since Texas is one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, those decisions will dictate what books are marketed in other states.
This is a critical reason why Democrats must come out and vote in Texas in 2010. As important as getting a Democratic governor, (especially with Perry showing up at the equivalent of tent revivals), more Democrats in the Legislature, more Democrats statewide, it’s equally important to get Democrats elected in the SBOE and other down ballot races. It’s more likely these far right candidates will lose in the general than in the primary where the more radical GOP voters are likely to be the majority.
While it may have been possible, but not likely, that there needed to be some changes to the way evolution was taught, someone who calls evolution “hooey” does not belong on the SBOE. We need more and better Democrats like Judy Jennings on the SBOE.
Richmond Republican Cynthia Dunbar will not seek re-election next year to a second term on the State Board of Education, fellow board member David Bradley confirmed Wednesday
Dunbar, whose expansive district includes northern Travis County, wrote in an e-mail that she would provide a written statement on her plans later.
Certainly Dunbar saw the writing on the wall that if she stayed around she would lost to the Democratic nominee Judy Jennings. Here’s what former Chair of the SBOE who couldn’t get confirmed by the Texas Senate had to say about it.
Board Member Don McLeroy, the former chairman on the board, will be facing Thomas Ratliff, son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, in the Republican primary.
“It’s going to be a referendum on the past two years. That’s why we’ve drawn all of these opponents,” McLeroy said. “I can’t wait.”
What McLeroy doesn’t seem to understand is that there’s already been a referendum. He’s not longer chair and Dunbar is not running for reelection. Two down.
Democratic candidate for State Board of Education (SBOE) District 10 Lorenzo Sadun has decided not to file in the Democratic Primary. Here is his statement from his web site, lorenzosadun.com:
I have decided not to file as a candidate for State Board of Education. The only office that I will be seeking this year is Democratic Precinct Chair in Travis County Precinct 214.
In part, this decision is for personal reasons, recognizing the strain that the campaign is placing on my work and on my family. A bigger factor, however, is my primary opponent, Dr. Judy Jennings. As I have come to know Judy better and better on the campaign trail, I have come to respect and admire her commitment to quality public education, her understanding of educational issues, and her discipline and determination. I have also watched her grow as a candidate. There is a learning curve to being a candidate, and Judy picks things up very quickly. Much as I would like to serve on the SBOE, I cannot allow my own ambition to stand in the way of Judy’s bringing necessary change to a dysfunctional board.
I am very grateful for the encouragement and support that you have given me, and hope that you will work just as hard to elect Judy.
UT math professor Lorenzo Sadun just announced he is withdrawing from the race for State Board of Education District 10. This presumably clears the Democratic field for Judy Jennings, who is hoping to unseat SBOE member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Teh Crazy. (Actually, she’s from Richmond.) Press release from Sadun below.
The West Williamson County Democrats (WWCD) will kick off their series of forums to “MEET THE CANDIDATES” next week. Each forum will feature a Democratic candidate who has declared his or her candidacy for political office and each will be on the Primary Election ballot in March 2010. Some of the candidates will survive to run for office in the General Election on November 3, 2010.
Our first featured guest, Dr. Judy Jennings, wants to replace incumbent Cynthia Dunbar on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) for District 10. Please join us when we welcome her to speak at Moody’s Restaurant in Leander on August 15th from 2:00-4:00. She is scheduled to talk about her motivation to run, strengths that qualify her to run, and why she thinks it is crucial that Cynthia Dunbar, our current District 10 representative be replaced.
It also plays into Perry’s fundraising strategy for GOP Primary
As the State Board of Education (SBOE) did last year with the science curriculum in Texas, they will next attempt to do with the social studies curriculum. Known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, for social studies, which includes history, will be rewritten over the next year.
Civil rights leaders César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall – whose names appear on schools, libraries, streets and parks across the U.S. – are given too much attention in Texas social studies classes, conservatives advising the state on curriculum standards say.
“To have César Chávez listed next to Ben Franklin” – as in the current standards – “is ludicrous,” wrote evangelical minister Peter Marshall, one of six experts advising the state as it develops new curriculum standards for social studies classes and textbooks. David Barton, president of Aledo-based WallBuilders, said in his review that Chávez, a Hispanic labor leader, “lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others.”
Although the actual standards are being drafted by teams of teachers, academics and community representatives, the education board appointed a panel of six experts to help guide the writing teams. Three of the experts, including Barton and Marshall, were appointed by Republican social conservatives on the board, while the other three experts – all professors at state universities in Texas – were appointed by the remaining Republicans and Democrats on the 15-member board.
Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit group that has battled social conservatives on education issues, questioned the academic credentials of Barton and Marshall, and said their negative comments on Chávez are just the start of a “blacklist” of historical figures considered objectionable by social conservatives.
“It is what we expected from unqualified political activists put on this so-called panel of experts,” said Dan Quinn of the freedom network. “This is yet another step toward politicizing our children’s education.”
Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, said that because the U.S. is a republic rather than a democracy, the proper adjective for identifying U.S. values and processes should be “republican” rather than “democratic.” That means social studies books should discuss “republican” values in the U.S., his report said.
As the saying goes, “History is written by the victors.” Or In this case rewritten, and right now the far right of the Texas GOP is winning. As with science the far right radicals on the SBOE will attempt to give social studies a religious “conservative” bent in Texas.
As we move forward into the 2010 elections we all must remember that it’s these kinds of offices that the extreme members of the Texas GOP have done so well in taking over, many times under the radar. That’s why it is so important for Democrats, all over the state, to offer candidates that better represent Texas’ views in many of these races. Many of these people were also appointed by the governor, or a Perry appointee, which is another reason why who wins the governor’s race in 2010 is so important.
Critics who engineered the recent ouster of State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, in part because of his strong religious beliefs, could end up with someone even more outspoken in her faith.
Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richardson, who advocated more Christianity in the public square last year with the publication of her book, “One Nation Under God,” is among those that Gov. Rick Perry is considering to lead the State Board of Education, some of her colleagues say.
If Cynthia Dunbar is appointed it’s likely to further alienate Independent voters from the Texas GOP, while increasing Perry’s chances to beat Hutchison in the primary.
With 1.4 million uninsured children, state Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) said that for Texas it is “very important that progress is made at the federal level.” That’s especially true, he said, given the state Legislature’s unwillingness to invest in a CHIP buy-in program that would have enrolled another 84,000 children in the low-cost health insurance plan.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) said that it was important for federal lawmakers to listen to their counterparts in the statehouses. Local officials have a better sense as to the impact of the current health system’s failings on hospitals, local governments and the taxpayers. And given that state lawmakers speak with the authority given to them by the voters, “we need to use our voice,” she said.
Coleman and Van de Putte have been active in President Obama’s push to use state lawmakers as liaisons back home to advocate for comprehensive health care reform. State Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) has been to Washington, D.C., as part of another health care advocacy effort, Health Care for America Now.
One change creates a health insurance program called ChildLink for children in the state’s child-support collection system. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who floated the idea in 2008, says the program — which will be run by a to-be-named private company — could reach about 200,000 children within a few years.
ChildLink takes “cash medical support” that parents already pay and redirects it to the new health insurance program. It doesn’t cost the state money because parents pay the premiums, Abbott said.
But some of the state’s most ardent supporters of expanding health insurance programs for children aren’t celebrating ChildLink. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he’s not opposed to the program — he just doesn’t think it will have the impact that Abbott envisions.
“He’s not insuring 200,000 kids,” Coleman said. “He’s putting a mechanism in place trying to bring medical support orders to one company.”
Seguin State Rep. Edmund Kuempel said the two-day special session of the state legislature called by Gov. Rick Perry was quick — and productive.
“It wasn’t so bad,” said Kuempel, who missed the end of this year’s regular session as a result of a heart attack he suffered in the State Capitol on May 12. “It was ‘in and out,’ basically.”
A special session can last up to 30 days. Lawmakers including Kuempel said they believed they’d be able to accomplish the work in less than a week, and Kuempel said he had no problem with the workload.
“It wasn’t bad — unless you’re on the transportation or appropriations committees,” Kuempel said.
Good to see Kuempel back and healthy. But here’s the interesting part.
Look for the transportation issue — particularly where it pertains to tolling — to stick around for a while, Kuempel said. It was no surprise, he added, to see it on the agenda for the special session.
“We have a tremendous number of people moving to Texas every day, and our roads really haven’t kept up for at least 10 years or longer now,” Kuempel said. “The governor’s still looking at this problem. Of course, you have a lot of people against tolls — some against tolls on existing roads and some against tolls altogether. This will be back in 2011.” (Emphasis added).
Perry said something needs to be done — and soon.
“With more than 1,000 people moving to Texas each day and a growing economy, improving transportation in our state continues to be a top priority,” Perry said in a statement. “I had hoped to reduce uncertainty regarding several major transportation projects across the state. Although the CDA bill did not pass, we will continue to work with legislators and local officials to find transportation solutions for our state.”
Kuempel said he believed the bonds and the authorizations to keep TxDOT and other vital agencies running should have been handled in the regular legislative session but for partisan bickering. Look for the transportation issues, including toll roads, to surface again in the next legislature.
“We’ll live to fight another day — in 2011,” Kuempel said.
Essentially there’s agreement that our transportation infrastructure has been neglected for many years. It has been longer than 10 years, of course, the gas tax hasn’t been raised in this state since 1992. Raising the gas tax should be the first option, and it usually is never mentioned, except to say that it won’t pass. Although no leader will step up and advocate for it.
And corporate toll roads have definitely become toxic. At least too toxic for a special session when all legislators, many voters, and the media have few other contentious issues to focus on. Via the AAS, In spotlight, toll roads too hot to handle.
It’s intriguing how a spotlight can change a politician’s perspective. Or in the case of the special session just past, a whole bunch of politicians’ perspectives.
Way back in the spring of 2009 (OK, about three months ago), the Texas Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 404 and Senate Bill 17. The House Transportation Committee later passed both bills. And the Senate even passed them again, this time while they were taking a ride on the Texas Department of Transportation sunset bill that later died.
In fact, all of these bills died in the House late in the session. But it had nothing to do with the content of SB 404 and SB 17, which occasioned little debate during the regular session.
Then, last week, members of the House and Senate turned their noses up at both bills and declined to even vote on them.
For the last decade or so many GOP candidates, many of them with stances on issues that a majority of Texans disagree with, have been getting elected and reelected without having to explain themselves. Many of them are in positions that aren’t very publicized but have a serious effect on our every day lives. Primarily in public education and the state courts.
Lorenzo Sadun is running for the Democratic nomination for the State Board of Education (SBOE) District 10, which includes Williamson County. Here’s a BOR post from last month on his campaign, Lorenzo Sadun for SBOE-10. Looking at the latest campaign treasurer filings the GOP incumbent, who has some odd stances on issues, Cynthia Dunbar is running for reelection. In a campaign flyer Sadun had this to say:
Are you tired of the State Board of Education’s antics? Are you tired of being represented by Cynthia Dunbar, who refuses to send her kids to school, who calls public education “tyrannical” and “a subtle instrument of perversion,” and who turns every issue before the Board into a test of faith?
Most of us are tired of that kind of thing in our state education board. Sadun is a scientist and professor at the University of Texas. He’s also taught religion and served as the director of his congregation’s religious school. In his flyer he goes on to say.
“He knows that public education needs to stay strictly secular, not because we don’t respect each other’s religious views, but because we do”.
His web site is not up yet, but when it is we will be sure to post it here. There are two other candidates listed with treasures – according to the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC). One is a Republican and it will be instersting to see how Dunbar is attacked in the GOP primary. It’s likely there will be several Democratic candidates in the primary as well, since the incumbent has made it so obvious that she needs to be replaced.
Democrats challenging for statewide judicial seats couldn’t quite get over the hump: Court of Criminal Appeals candidate Susan Strawn and the seldom-seen J.R. Molina, along with a pair of Texas Supreme Court candidates, all fell short of a majority, though once again they were the highest Democratic vote getters on the statewide ballot, posting especially solid numbers in urban areas.
Think of it this way, Court of Criminal Appeals candidate Susan Strawn, with a minimal budget and no voter outreach,got 92,695 more statewide votes than Democratic Senate candidate Rick Noriega who ran a significant grassroots campaign and was on TV in several markets. For whatever reason, Texas voters appear to dislike Republican judges in greater numbers than they do other statewide pols. (Emphasis added).
As Texas continues to shift demographically from rural to urban and the Latino vote increases in importance, these electoral trends all favor Democrats and it won’t be long before Ds begin picking up statewide races, inevitably starting with judicial appellate seats. In close races where every vote counts, it will be judicial races, ultimately, that become the spearpoint of Democrats’ statewide electoral success. Mark my words.
The reason voters “dislike” GOP judges is because the perceive they are only ruling the way they are because of the huge campagn donations they are raking in from GOP donors, (see this EOW post for more). The vast majoriy of Texans want fair judges, not partisan judges. And with judges elected on a partisan basis the only way to bring fairness back is to elect some Democrats.
The Dallas News’ Michael Landauer writes that “Lawrence Meyers, the longest-serving member of the Court of Criminal Appeals, says he’s running for re-election. In doing so, he cites the court’s reputation for fairness. Try not to laugh.” The other two Texas CCA judges up in 2010 are Michael Keasler and Cheryl Johnson, all Republicans.
There is no liberal wing on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. There’s a conservative wing, to which Judge Johnson belongs, and a more or less totalitarian wing, in which Keasler and Meyers reside along with Presiding Judge Sharon Keller.
In essence what’s happened in many of the SBOE and statewide court races is the Texas GOP’s primary voter’s choices have been able to sail to election, or reelection, without having to answer for their record, or explain themselves on this issues. That will no longer be the case. Those who’ve been elected simply because they were the most pleasing the the GOP primary voter, or had an “R” next to their name will now have to make their case to every voter in Texas. Not just the GOP primary voters. No more free rides.