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Parents, Clergy, Scientists Call for Sound Science Standards as Lawmakers Consider Major Reforms for Texas Ed Board

'Culture War’ Battle over Evolution Just the Latest Example of Extremism on SBOE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2009

With the Texas State Board of Education embroiled in yet another “culture war” battle, thousands of parents, clergy and scientists have signed petitions calling on board members to adopt new science curriculum standards that don’t dumb down instruction on evolution.

“The clear message to the state board is to stop playing politics with our kids’ science education,” Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said. “Texas schoolchildren need an education based on 21st-century science, not the personal beliefs of state board members who oppose evolution.”

Miller announced that a petition calling on the board to adopt science curriculum standards that don’t water down instruction on evolution has gathered more than 7,600 signatures. (The petition is available here.) More than 1,500 Texas scientists have signed on to a similar petition from the 21st Century Science Coalition. And nearly Texas 600 clergy have signed the Clergy Letter Project petition, which declares that science and faith are not in conflict on the issue of evolution.

The state board is set to take a final vote on science curriculum standards next week. Evolution opponents are insisting that the standards require that students learn “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories, including evolution. Board Chairman Don McLeroy and other evolution opponents have said they will use that requirement to force publishers to challenge evolution in science textbooks proposed for adoption in 2011.

The debate over new standards is only the latest in a long series of “culture war” battles on issues such as evolution, sex education and religion that have sharply divided the heavily politicized State Board of Education since the early 1990s.

“Those battles and other political maneuvering by board members have diverted the board’s focus from ensuring that Texas schoolchildren get a sound education,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. Sen. Ellis, Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and other Texas lawmakers have filed more than a dozen bills that would limit the authority of the board and impose more state oversight on it.

“Texans have a right to expect that our children’s education not be held hostage to the personal and political agendas of whatever majority controls the state board,” Sen. Ellis said. “But that expectation isn’t being met.”

Sen. Ellis has filed bills that would turn the board’s authority for approving curriculum standards and adopting textbooks over to the Texas Education Agency and place the SBOE under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission.

Rep. Howard has filed legislation that would change how board members are elected, require live Webcasting of board meetings, and transfer authority over the Permanent School Fund to a board of finance experts.

“This legislation is about bringing accountability to a state board has been flying under the radar for far too long now,” Rep. Howard said. “It’s an important step toward enhancing transparency so voters can better understand what's happening during the meetings.”

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.

 

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