16 April 2009

Will Texas State Board of Education be revised?

Following on this year's tumultuous review, not just of science, but many different aspects of the Texas K-12 school science standards, a lot of legislators are asking, “Is this a good way to set the curriculum?”

The bill under consideration will let the Texas Education Agency set most of the standards, but the Board of Education could overrule the Education Agency recommendations with an 80% vote.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the move to change the authority of the Board of Education, which contains a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black:

“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.

Unsurprisingly, State Board of Education chair Don McLeroy doesn’t like this idea, says a report from the Austin American-Statesman. Nobody likes giving up power, and McLeroy has proven to be very adept at wielding it:

“There is nobody to question them if this bill is passed,” McLeroy said. “What is wrong with having a debate?”

Debate isn’t necessarily the problem. going back to the Wall Street Journal article for a second, I’d wager that legislators are more concerned about things like this:

Last year, (the State Board of Eductaion) 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.

That’s not debate. That’s dereliction of duty. That’s messing with the process. That’s contempt for professionals.

I sympathize with McLeroy on one point, though (Austin American-Statesman again):
“Regular people have a say-so with the State Board of Education because they elect us,” McLeroy said.

This is also raised by an Education Committee member, according to the Dallas Morning News story on this issue:

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, was the only committee member defending the authority of the education board to approve curriculum standards and textbooks.

Noting that the 15 board members are elected from their regions of the state, Patrick suggested that stripping the board of its authority would take away residents' ability to have a say over the textbooks used in public schools.

“Aren’t you concerned that you’re taking this out of the hands of the people?” he asked Seliger. “Because the State Board of Education is elected, the people of Texas now have a direct say.”

People get the governments they deserve, I suppose.

Additional: The Dallas Morning News has an editorial on this topic.

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