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PULLING RANK: A "rude and irate" Texas Republican congressman Louie Gohmert pulled rank in a late-night verbal altercation with U.S. Park Police earlier this month after receiving a parking ticket near the Lincoln Memorial.
FOOD STAMPS: Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income people and families purchase groceries, increased by 70% since 2008 due to a sluggish job market, rising poverty, and the relaxing of income tests, reports the Wall Street Journal. An estimated 16% of Texans receive benefits under the program.
WATER: On Wednesday, the Texas House overwhelming approved the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas. The State Water Implementation Fund for Texas is a revolving account for community water projects and water conservation aimed at helping Texas cope with projected water shortages brought by population and drought conditions.
A&M GAY UNFRIENDLY: Funding for the Texas A&M Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center is in jeopardy.
AUSTIN ENVIRO: Republican State Representative Paul Workman has filed two pieces of legislation that would ease development restrictions in Austin and undermine the Save Our Springs Ordinance.
SBOE: A State Board of Education Committee will review an online curriculum system used by more than 50 school districts in response to consevative groups who, "raised concerns the system's lessons promote an anti-American ideology."
(Senator Kirk Watson details how he's using his position on the Senate Nominations committee to push for greater accountability. Barbara Cargill, the eyes of education advocates are on you. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
With all due respect to Congress, nobody’s nailed down the “politics at its worst” thing quite like Texas’ State Board of Education.
Our board has one policy area to not screw up: what kids learn in Texas schools. And yet, for years, it’s been wrought by conflicts that have been initiated, in my estimation, by folks who care more about propagating what they themselves believe rather than what kids actually need to know.
The dynamics have gotten so bad that two legislative sessions ago, in 2009, the Senate actually busted the Governor’s appointee to chair the board. Last session, there was so little support for the Governor’s chair that she didn’t even get a vote. There's even a PBS documentary about it called "The Revisionaries," which you can watch online until Feb. 27.
Well, yesterday, the Senate Nominations committee, on which I’m the only Democrat, took up the nomination of Barbara Cargill, the third nominee for SBOE Chair that the Governor’s given us in the last three sessions.
And the committee recommended her confirmation. Unanimously.
Diane Trautman is a committed educator who has worked in education for over 25 years as a teacher and administrator. She is the best choice to tackle the challenges faced by the Harris County Department of Education.
Trautman is clearly the better choice for Harris County schoolchildren and would be a welcome improvement over conservative ideologue Michael Wolfe, the incumbent. Voters would be wise to turn out Wolfe, who has stated that he would abolish the very Department of Education on which he serves! The HCDE board previously tried to remove Wolfe from office because he simply does not respect the governing body or its procedures. Wolfe pledged to adhere to ethical practices and begged for a second chance, but since then has continued to miss meetings.
Wolfe is a severely partisan Republican who has earned endorsements from some of the most extreme conservatives who threaten to derail our public education system. Wolfe has been endorsed by two of the greatest anti-science advocates in Texas, SBOE member Barbara Cargill and Dr. Steve Hotze. Cargill wanted to put the age of the universe up for a vote, while Hotze believes disease is caused by "sin"... perhaps as opposed to viruses or bacteria? With friends like these, it's impossible to imagine that Wolfe will support scientifically accurate, reason-based education for our Harris County students.
The city that is home to NASA should not re-elect Board of Education members who fundamentally do not believe in science!
Trautman has been endorsed by the Houston Federation of Teachers, owing to her experience in many of the area's public schools. She is the former principal of Tomball Junior High School, and assistant principal while at Moorhead Junior High School in Conroe ISD. She also taught education administration at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her hands on experience will be a valuable asset to the board.
Burnt Orange Report urges Harris County voters to reject Michael Wolfe's ideological extremism and vote in a real educator to the Harris County Department of Education. We unanimously and enthusiastically endorse Diane Trautman for HCDE At-Large Place 3.
Early Voting: Monday October 22 - Friday November 2 --- Election Day: Tuesday, November 6
Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement. Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races.
Eight Republican candidates in the May 29 SBOE primaries didn't respond to the survey. Six candidates who are unopposed in their GOP primaries did not get the questionnaire. Just three Republicans affirmed the importance of public education in Texas. The religious-right groups that sponsored the survey (all of which are nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations) didn't question Democratic candidates.
"A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools."
The candidate survey was part of voter guide put together by three Texas-based religious-right groups and the American Family Association (AFA), a Mississippi-based organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group. Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked the AFA to organize his prayer extravaganza in Houston last August, an event that occurred just a week before the governor declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. The Texas groups involved in the voter guide project are Texas Eagle Forum, Heritage Alliance and Liberty Institute (the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family).
These groups also sent emails to far-right activists around the state, asking for volunteers to "grade" candidates' responses to the survey questions. According to information provided online along with the summaries of candidate responses, candidate "grades" were also based on such things as legislative voting records, campaign donation history, statements on campaign websites and endorsements from "conservative and liberal groups." The graders apparently also took into consideration other candidates a particular candidate's donors gave money to. But much of that additional data isn't included in the online voter guide. You just have to trust the judgment of the graders.
The "voter guides," along with the "grades" given to candidates, are available here.
Of the 13 Republicans who responded to the candidate survey, 12 also said they "agree" or "strongly agree" that "free market competition for education dollars, rather than a government monopoly, would create a better education for all students." (One replied "neutral.") Supporters of school vouchers use that argument to call for diverting tax dollars from public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools.
Among the other statements on which candidates were asked to state their agreement or disagreement:
Human life begins at conception and deserves legal protection at every stage until natural death. Biology textbooks which do not teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution should be rejected by the Board. I support school counseling or teaching about homosexuality. I support displaying the Ten Commandments in public school buildings. Any teaching to children on sex education in public schools must include all contraceptive methods, and should not show preference to abstinence.
The summaries of candidate responses comes with the following disclaimer:
Expenses related to grading paid for by Heritage Alliance. Nothing on this site is authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. Heritage Alliance does not support or oppose candidates; iVoterGuide.com should not be construed as support for or opposition to candidates.
All of the eight Republican candidates who didn't respond to the questionnaires got low grades, in most cases either an F or a D.
The following SBOE candidates got the highest grades in their contested GOP primaries:
Veronica Anzaldua, Corpus Christi, District 2 (C)
Ken Mercer, San Antonio, District 5 (incumbent) (A)
David Bradley, Beaumont, District 7 (incumbent) (A+)
Barbara Cargill, The Woodlands, District 8 (incumbent) (A+)
Randy Stevenson, Tyler, District 9 (A)
Jeff Fleece, Liberty Hill, District 10 (A)
Gail Spurlock, Richardson, District 12 (A)
Gail Lowe, Lampasas, District 13 (incumbent) (A)
Marty Rowley, Amarillo, District 15, (B)
That appears to be the religious-right's slate of favored candidates in contested Republican primaries for the State Board of Education in Texas. Rowley was the only candidate from that list who "agreed" with government's responsibility to educate Texas children. Rowley joined most of the other candidates who expressed opposition to abortion; agree that the state board should reject biology textbooks that don't include so-called "weaknesses" of evolution; disagree with "counseling or teaching" about homosexuality; agree with displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools; and oppose teaching about contraception in sex education classes.
You can find a listing of SBOE candidates along with district data and other election news and information at tfn.org/sboe2012.
In 2010, Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau both ran for seats on the Texas State Board of Education. They lost. In 2011, a well-known Republican political operative sued them for a political ad they ran in the 2010 race. This year, they're running for the SBOE yet again - Jennings for District 10 and Bell-Metereau for District 5. Both are career educators with extensive experience in the field, and would be tremendous assets to our state board of education.
Why, after defeats and prohibitively expensive, ongoing litigation that could drain anyone's war chest, would anyone subject herself to this again? And why would there be lawsuits filed over a race for the State Board of Education?
Dr. Alma Allen is an expert on school finance and an experienced legislator. Now is not the time to be turning our education experts out of office. We unanimously and enthusiastically endorse her for re-election to HD-131.
Allen is a former member of the State Board of Education (not one of the "crazy" ones, no worries) who served on the board for 10 years. She is a former public school teacher and school administrator who worked for Houston ISD for 39 years. She has taught at Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern University. Her broad and deep experience in education and seniority in the state house make her an important member of our delegation.
Allen's opponent Wanda Adams is term limited out of her seat on the Houston City Council. We are not convinced that she wants to serve in the Legislature so much as she wants to find a place to land after her service in Houston is over.
Allen may be nearing end of career, but for now experience is at a premium in our Democratic state house delegation. We see no reason to get rid of this capable and amiable public servant.
Dr. Alma Allen is an advocate for public schools and experienced educator. We unanimously and enthusiastically endorse her for re-election to HD-131.
Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement. Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races.
The Pilgrims did come to America and did experiment with a communist system of communal owned and operated property. This system caused confusion, discontent, and a lack of entrepreneurship and individual initiative. The men who were the most able were jealous because they got paid the same amount as those who did not do as much work. The most able women who did the heaviest communal chores began to feel the same type of discontent. This discontent led to the lack of a strong work ethic; and the failure of the communist experiment began to lead to illness, starvation, and death.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Governor William Bradford began to study the situation and realized the root cause of failure was the communist system. He decided to change course and started giving each settler his own piece of land. The settlers began to work harder on their own land because they knew they would reap the benefits. Soon the entire colony began to prosper under the new system; and the rest is history.
Conclusion: Communism does not work; by the same token, big government does not work effectively either because it destroys individual responsibility and initiative.
Indeed America has proved that the free enterprise system does work because it encourages entrepreneurship, competition, self-control, individual liberty, a strong work ethic, individual responsibility, self-discipline, and all the benefits derived thereof.
America is an exceptional nation because our forefathers built it upon the free enterprise system combined with the Judeo-Christian ethic of generosity and love. When a nation thrives and is prosperous, everyone benefits.
Spurlock offers links to articles from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Hoover Institute websites to back up her claim. In fact, this story is hardly new -- it's pretty much swept through the right-wing blogosphere over the past few years. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have also promoted it, as have websites like Creation Worldview Ministries.
The problem is: it's a distortion of history. So we'll refer (again) to this New York Times article from last fall, in which historians thoroughly debunked the claim:
Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common - William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the "common course." But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.
"It was directed ultimately to private profit," said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims' story alive.
The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving. "The celebration would never have happened if the harvest was going to be less than enough to get them by," Mr. Pickering said. "They would have saved it and rationed it to get by."
The Times notes that some Tea Party folks, like Dick Armey, also claim that the settlers of another early English colony -- in Jamestown, Va. -- nearly failed because of communism. But historians say that claim is just as absurd as the one about the Pilgrims:
"To call it socialism is wildly inaccurate," said Karen Ordahl Kupperman, a historian at New York University and the author of "The Jamestown Project." "It was a contracted company, and everybody worked for the company. I mean, is Halliburton a socialist scheme?"
Jamestown certainly was plagued with problems, the Times story notes, like malaria and drought:
But the biggest problem, Professor Kupperman said, was the lack of planning. The Virginia settlers came to the New World thinking that they could find gold or a route to the Pacific Ocean via the Chesapeake Bay, and make a quick buck by setting up a trading station like others were establishing in the East Indies.
"It was just wishful thinking," she said, "a failure to recognize that these things are really, really difficult."
Look, Gail Spurlock can believe whatever she wants, even if it's that the Pilgrims were radicals seeking a socialist utopia more than two centuries before Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto. It's a free country, after all. But it's important to remember that she wants to serve on the State Board of Education, which approves curriculum standards that guide what public schools teach students across Texas. Just sayin'.
More evidence for how the Texas State Board of Education has become a battleground in the culture wars rather than a body that makes education a priority: a candidate questionnaire from the religious-right group Texas Alliance for Life. The state board approves curriculum standards and textbooks for public schools. But Texas Alliance for Life doesn't appear to be interested in any of that. Check out some of the items from the group's questionnaire for candidates in the May 29 Republican and Democratic primaries:
Do you support or oppose the reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which allows abortion for any reason, even as a method of birth control at all stages of pregnancy, including late term abortions?
Do you support or oppose laws banning assisted suicide?
Do you support or oppose public funding for research that involves embryonic stem cells, which requires the destruction of human embryos?
Do you support of oppose a law prohibiting health insurance coverage of elective abortion?
From a cover letter accompanying the voter guide:
"These issues, in which public policy decisions have enormous significance, are some of the most critical confronting Texas and America."
None of the 10 questions on the survey has anything to do with the state board's responsibilities or authority. The questions are all about culture war issues. The questionnaire is designed simply to weed out any candidate who doesn't buy into the religious right's political agenda. And that's a big part of the reason why we have a state board that puts personal and political agendas ahead of giving Texas students an education that prepares them to succeed.
(Texas Freedom Network is doing much-needed work to educate Texans about our State Board of Education. Take a look at their guide to the SBOE candidates and take the pledge to work for a new SBOE. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
The state board approves textbooks and curriculum standards for Texas public schools. That's a lot of power. But for years now, right-wing ideologues on the board have censored American history, rejected established science and ignored the recommendations of teachers and scholars. In fact, far-right board members have rallied around former board chair Don McLeroy's bizarre declaration that "somebody's gotta stand up to experts!"
For supporters of public education, it's been maddening. And for most Texans, it's been downright embarrassing.
So enough. It's time for a new State Board of Education.
Because of redistricting, all 15 seats on the state board are up for election this year. To help educate voters about the board and how they can work to change it this year, the Texas Freedom Network today launched an online SBOE Elections HQ (tfn.org/educate). There you'll find information about the board and its history, candidates in this year's elections and an electoral analysis of each state board district.
More importantly, you can sign on to a pledge to help change the state board this year. TFN will give you the resources you need to get informed about the state board, talk to friends and family about the board elections this year and vote for candidates who will focus on kids, not politics and personal agendas. So take the pledge and work this year for a new State Board of Education in Texas.
Perhaps my biggest frustration in running for Texas State Board of Education District 10 has been the way certain editorial boards have been unable to see the differences between me and my Republican opponent. These people look at us, two women with Ph.D.s in education, and conclude that the safer choice is to back the Republican in red-state Texas. Safer for their reputations, perhaps, but certainly not safer for Texas children. For the benefit of those editorial boards, I have highlighted key differences between me and my opponent below in bold.
The current State Board of Education has politicized the curriculum-writing process because of the narrow personal political agendas of a few extreme Republican members who have depended on advocates of voucher programs for financial and political support. We have an opportunity to prevent the extremists from reprising what they have done with science and history standards, but to do so will require strong leadership from someone willing to stand up to the extremists. Repeatedly, so-called moderate Republicans on the current Board have failed to do so. My Republican opponent Marsha Farney, unlike me, has refused to state she would not align herself with those who politicize the Board. Her investment choices provide a clear indication of her fundamental values and political preferences.