Saturday, June 19, 2010

Texas Can’t Afford To Buy New Far-Right Textbooks

Think Progress: Texas normally replaces textbooks on a rotating basis every 10 years. With Texas facing a budget shortfall of more than $18 billion for the next two-year budget cycle, the money isn’t going to be there for new textbooks:
For the past year, far-right members of the Texas Board of Education have been overhauling the state’s textbook standards. The changes include “pushing for inclusion of Confederate glorification,” re-naming the Atlantic slave trade the “Atlantic Triangle Trade,” prioritizing “a suggestion that the anti-communist witch-hunt by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s may have been justified,” and raising doubt about climate change.

[Ending a year of fierce debate in March 2009 evolution should be taught in Texas public schools, the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted on and passed a final version of new science education standards that calls for teachers to have a "critical discussion" of the “weaknesses of scientific theories" on evolution with public school students to “examine all sides of scientific evidence and scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking,” that includes intelligent design, (i.e.God created the earth in 7 days about 6,000 years) as a valid scientific theory. See Science Takes A Hit In Texas.]

However, the Texas Observer now reports that the state can’t afford to buy the new books:

The state normally replaces textbooks on a rotating basis every 10 years. With Texas facing a budget shortfall of at least $18 billion in 2011, the money isn’t going to be there. Textbooks covering the new [evolution is wrong] science standards would have cost $400 million, and the Legislature is already expecting a bill of $888 million for textbooks already ordered.

To ensure that students can still be exposed to “proof, supposedly, of evolution’s fallibility,” the Board is trying to secure funding for special “supplements for science classes from fifth grade through high school.” Social studies textbooks aren’t up for replacement until 2013 — by then, Texas might have enough money to teach their students about Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority.

The lack of textbook funding underscores Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) constant compulsion to oppose federal funding that could help his state. At the beginning of June, he refused to let Texas compete for Race to the Top funding for education reform because he falsely claimed the program would weaken the state’s school standards. That allegation was even refuted by a fellow Republican governor, Sonny Perdue of Georgia.

A Houston Chronicle editorial from earlier this week lamented Perry’s stubborn “grandstanding” while noting why Texas needs additional, federal education funding:

“Of the 50 states, we’re No. 49 in the percentage of adults who’ve completed high school; and it’s estimated that a third of our Texas high school freshmen don’t make it to graduation.”

Texas faces a daunting $18 billion shortfall for the next two-year budget cycle, amounting to 20 percent of the total budget, but Perry misguidedly insists he can find enough spending cuts to create balance, and he is even blustering about rejecting supplementary Medicaid funding from Congress that would greatly help address the state’s fiscal woes.

Last year, he [Perry] tried to reject the stimulus money that proved key to balancing Texas’ budget, [when the Texas legislature approved the stimulus money over Perry's objections. Perry rejected the federal money] insisting, “We can take care of ourselves,” before the legislature intervened and secured the relief [money to balance the budget shortfall.]

Perry’s serial rejections, both actual and attempted, evoke his flirtation with secession; of course, with more federal aid, he might be able to afford teaching Texan youth about “the ‘significant contributions‘ of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war.”

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