Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Democratic Party of Collin County Elects New Chair

Shawn Stevens
On July 22, 2009 the Democratic Party of Collin County Executive Committee elected a new chairperson in special election.

The new chairperson, Shawn Stevens, a former assistant chair of the county party, was elected on the fifth round of balloting. Mr. Stevens received the most votes in the first ballot round and he picked up votes in each ballot round until he was only one vote away from the party chair position on the fourth ballot.

Marlene Byndon
Candidate Marlene Byndon, who is the current assistant chair of the county party, saw her vote totals decreased over the first four ballot rounds. After the vote tally was complete on ballot round four, Ms. Byndon announced that in spirit of party unity she was withdrawing her name from consideration. Ms. Byndon received a standing round of applause from the county precinct chairpersons in appreciation for her candidacy, positive campaign and enthusiasm for Democratic candidate victories in Collin County in future elections. Candidate Victor Manuel's vote tallies remain relatively steady through the first four rounds of Executive Committee balloting.

As soon as Mr. Robert Miller, temporary chairperson for the special election meeting, called the meeting to order three party chair candidates were nominated: Marlene Byndon, Shawn Stevens and Victor Manuel. After nominations were closed each of the candidates spoke on their own behalf and the candidates also received seconding speeching from three of their suporters. The short speeches delivered by each of the candidates and their supporters echoed the same message -- That working together Collin County Democrats can become a force in local, state and national politics.

During his remarks Mr. Stevens said,
"Democrats have been making great progress in Collin County, and together we can do even better by welcoming all Democrats that want to help the effort. Comparing 2008 to 2004, there were 20,000 more straight ticket Democratic voters in 2008, while the Republicans’ straight ticket votes were virtually unchanged. Also, the raw Democratic vote in Collin County went up by 40,000 votes, while the raw Republican vote went up by only 10,000, a 30,000 net gain for the Democrats, reducing the vote gap between the Democratic and Republican vote by around 17.5 points

Another fact is that the 2008 Democratic Collin County Convention was attended by about 4,000 people and is the most well attended event in the history of the Frisco Conference Center, the largest publicly available indoor venue in Collin County. Before that, 20,000 people took the time to show up at Democratic precinct conventions in neighborhoods across the county!

We want to do everything we can to help turn Texas blue, both in the statewide elections in 2010 for races like Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General, and in the next Presidential election in 2012. If there is a special election for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat in the near future, I will encourage Collin County Democrats to be fully engaged, as Collin County voters could be the deciding factor in a race with numerous candidates, putting a greater spotlight on Collin County Democrats, and increasing our momentum.

The Republican era of domination of Collin County is beginning to come to a close."
During the short campaign span, one of Mr. Stevens supporters said of Stevens,
"As a long-time Democratic activist, an attorney specializing in, among other things, election law and a former staffer in the Texas Legislature, he knows how the game of politics is played – from conducting local campaigns to influencing legislation and getting our delegates to the National Convention. In my opinion, he is one of our most experienced and knowledgeable activists.

Local politicos now recognize that we, and Shawn in particular, know election law and will insist that they follow it. In fact, on a number of occasions I’ve seen local Republican leaders and Elections Office staff automatically turn to Shawn for clarification of a fine point.

Likewise, Shawn has earned the respect of the leadership of the Texas Democratic Party, state officials, DNC members and others in the Democratic community on a statewide and national basis. They know him, they trust him and they value his opinion.

Shawn knows who to call for high-level help on political issues without having to look them up, and often knows them personally. His contacts have been extremely helpful in the operation of our Party, and have helped us raise significant amounts of money.

Shawn understands why increasing the Democratic vote in Collin County is critical on a statewide, and perhaps national, level. Because of our large population, a few more percentage points in our county can tip a statewide race blue.
Mr. Stevens, a fifth generation Texan and attorney at law, has been active in the Democratic Party for approximately two decades.

Mr. Stevens was the senior legislative assistant for State Representative Glen Maxey over two regular Texas legislative sessions and numerous special sessions during the early 1990's. During the fall of 2008 he was appointed by the Obama campaign to organize and provide support to election pollwatchers working in Collin County for the Obama and Rick Noriega campaigns.

Mr. Stevens served as Vice-Chair (Asst. County Chair) of the Democratic Party of Collin County for five years, from 2003 until mid-November 2008 and was also the county party's General Counsel. Mr. Stevens currently serves as Precinct Chair for precinct 115.

Related Posts:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Consolidated Polling Centers Coming To Collin Co. Next Election Day?

In mid-July Collin Co. notified the Texas Secretary of State (SOS) that the county wants to be selected to join Texas' ongoing Vote Center trial program. The Collin County Elections Administrator notified the SOS that Collin County intends to submit a plan, by the August 15th application deadline date, to implement countywide Election Day Vote Centers this coming November, as authorized by the Texas legislature earlier this year. Under the provisions of this program there are many fewer than usual Election Day polling places, but each Election Day polling place acts like Early Voting locations where any Collin County voter can vote at any consolidated polling place in Collin County.
The Collin County Elections office proposed a similar plan in 2006, to participate in the "consolidated polling centers" pilot, by reducing the number of election day polling places from 135 to 30 for the November general election of that year. After both the Republican and Democratic Parties objected, that 2006 plan was scrapped. [Collin County Observer]
The Election Day "vote anywhere" feature of the "consolidated polling center" plan sounds like a good idea, but when Lubbock County tried a similar reduction of polling locations in the 2006 pilot program, there was a 25% reduction in voter participation in the most heavily minority precincts, a fact that was excluded from the report submitted by the county and the SOS to the Texas Legislature this year.

Late in the 2009 legislative session the Texas legislature passed HB719. HB719, which becomes effective on September 1, 2009, allows up to three counties with more than 100K in population and two counties with less than 100K in population to participate in a continuation of Texas' consolidated polling center experimental program. Lubbock will be one of the three larger population counties and Erath County will be one of smaller population counties in the program, as both counties have already participated in a pilot project to consolidate polling locations.

Bottom line, two additional larger counties and one smaller county will be selected by the Texas Secretary of State to expand the experimental program and Collin County is asking to be one of those larger counties allowed to join the program. Each county that is selected by the SOS to participate must report to the SOS with the results after each election trial, and the SOS itself must report to the Legislature, in January 2011, what the results of the experiment were.

HB719 as signed by the Governor had grafted into it, in the last week of the session, SB 1310 by Duncan, which was a stalled bill that included a provision to reduce the number of precinct polling places. For the first year, those counties that participate in the consolidated polling center program may eliminate up to 35% of the precinct polling places, and for the second year, they may eliminate up to 50% of the precinct polling places. (The House Elections Committee held a public hearing on SB 1310 on May 12, 2009, and the hearing on this bill begins at 47:28 on the video record that can be found here.)

Three officials from Lubbock County testified in favor of the bill, and none of them mentioned the Lubbock County Democratic Party's dissatisfaction with the Lubbock County experiment due what they characterized as the 25% reduction in turnout in minority precinct polling places, compared to a 12% reduction in Republican precinct polling places.

Luis Figeroa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund testified in opposition to SB 1310 (and said they would change their position to neutral if the bill was limited to a pilot project), and Dustin Rynders of Advocacy, Inc. expressed support for having flexibility about where people could vote, but expressed caution that there is concern with actually closing precinct polling locations. Anita Privett of the League of Women Voters also expressed concerns about limiting the number of precinct polling places.

The SOS will, by August 28th, select the two additional larger counties and one smaller county to join the Vote Center Trial Program. The selected counties must then forward their Vote Center plans to the U.S. Dept. of Justice for pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 for their approval to proceed with the program expansion.

Many voters, especially low-income minority voters that cannot afford the newspaper, have a routine of going to their traditional neighborhood polling place without looking up anything in the paper about voting locations. Many elderly and low-income voters also often have difficulty reaching the consolidated polling centers, which are more distant from their homes than the traditional precinct polling places. DOJ pre-clearance is a major factor in this process, and will have ultimate say on whether a given consolidated polling center implementation plan will pass "Voting Rights Act" scrutiny.

Consolidating polling centers have resulted in long voter lines at the fewer in number consolidated polling centers in Denver and other cities. Studies have also shown that poorly planned consolidate polling center programs have resulting in long voter lines and lower voter turnout, especially among young and minority voters. [Collin County Observer]

According to an article in the Collin County Observer, Larimer County in Colorado is frequently cited as an example of how well countywide polling centers can work to both save money and increase voter participation in elections.
Larimer County has successfully reduced its number of election day polling places from 143 to 22, without suppressing voter turnout.

It accomplished this by careful planning and:
  • Voter education - several mailings to each registered voter listing the location of new polling locations.
  • Dedicated communications using T-1 network connections directly from each polling place to the county elections office.
  • Choosing polling locations that had an abundance of parking, frequently using large churches, whose parking lots are not in use on a Tuesday election day.
Collin County's 2006 plan, however:
  • Planned no mailings to voters
  • Had no dedicated communication, instead relying on existing and in some places dial-up connections.
  • Planned to use schools and government building that had little available parking.
Collin County's 2006 consolidated polling center plan had far too few locations, and too many were rural locations resulting in, for example, only one polling place for all of Frisco.

Elections are expensive. Efforts to cut election budgets can make consolidating voting precincts seem very attractive. However, the evidence suggests that before savings can be realized, investments must be made in voter notification, communications infrastructure, and polling place locations.

If the commissioners court does want to entertain the idea of reducing the number of polls by creating countywide super polls it, will need to create a bi-partisan committee to study all the implications and propose a budget and plan. Attempting to impose a quick-fix scheme, such as was done in 2006, will create controversy and likely result in a plan doomed to failure.
Perhaps taking some advice from the Collin County Observer, the Collin County Elections Administrator has asked the county commissioner's court to hold a public hearing meeting for Monday July 20th to take public comment on the consolidated polling center plan. "We will discuss processes utilized by Lubbock County in their successful pilot program elections. I will ask the [Collin County Commissioners] Court to select a site selection committee to assist with the evaluation and selection of the sites to be utilized on the November 3, 2009, Uniform Election Date," the Elections Administrator writes in her notice of the public hearing to local politicos.
The Collin County Observer posts a copy of the "notice" from the Texas Secretary of State concerning the countys' interest in forming "consolidate polling centers" on election day. The Observer has a few additional details as well - see Collin County Observer: Public hearing scheduled for Countwide Vote Center plan

The Blue Dog Approach To Bipartisanship With GOP

Some centrist blue dog members of the Democratic party on Capitol Hill are talking with Republican Congresspeople about building a coalition to oppose the Obama administration’s health care reforms, says a House Republican.

The Huffington Post reports that the DNC is targeting pro-health reform ads to 11 Congressional districts held by Democrats.

See video of ad below. . .

State Board of Education To Debate Sex And Drug Ed, Maybe

AUSTIN - State Board of Education member Patricia Hardy of Fort Worth said she plans to push for a requirement that students take a year of PE in courses that would also include instruction in health. Hardy said she believes a health component of PE should include such elements as sex education, parenting, drugs and alcohol use and nutrition.

Hardy said her proposal is designed to fill a void created by the 2009 Legislature, which passed new education standards that eliminated health instruction as a requirement for high school graduation. The former Castleberry High School teacher said she will present the recommendations when board members hold a work session later this year.

Read the rest of the story at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Extra Credit education blog.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Part 3

This is Part 3 of a 5 part series on the state of sexuality health education in Collin County based on the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund study, “Just Say Don’t kNOw” by Dr. David Wiley, Dr. Kelly Wilson and Ryan Valentine. A copy of the study can be found online at The series is researched and written by Linda Magid.

In Part 1 of our series, we gave an overview of the state of sex education in Texas. In Part 2, we looked at how the Texas Education Code deals with sexuality health and what is and isn’t covered in Allen, Frisco, McKinney and Plano ISD classrooms. In part 3 we turn to a frank discussion of the Factual Errors, Lies and Distortions about Condoms and STDs taught in these Collin County school districts.

Factual Errors, Lies and Distortions about Condoms and STDs

With one in four teenage girls in the U.S. diagnosed with having a sexually transmitted disease, national teen births on the rise and with chlamydia cases increasing 25% for teens in Collin County, one might assume educators are acting quickly to teach teens strategies for protection against STDs including information on condoms. Unfortunately, educators in Collin County are more interested in furthering their personal philosophy of abstinence rather than teen health.
[“CDC Reports One In Four Teenage Girls Has an STD,” redOrbit, March 11, 2008, "Bristol Palin and other teen moms: New trend setters?" Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 2009 and the Texas Department of State Health Services, TB/HIV/STD Epi and Surveillance report]
According to the study “Just Say Don’t kNOw,” two out of five secondary schools in Texas teach children “demonstrably incorrect information on sexuality education instruction.” (Wiley, Wilson and Valentine, pg. 17) 40.1% of Texas ISDs use materials that perpetuate at least one distortion about condoms and some use materials with multiple errors (Wiley, et al., pg. 18).

For example, Just Say Yes (used by Frisco ISD) is an abstinence speaker bureau based out of Dallas whose presenter, Howard Flaherty, tells students, “(the) lie suggests that if you hand out a condom to young people that you’re going to lower teen pregnancy and disease. Not true.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 18) He goes on to claim that giving a young person a condom does not give them the message of personal responsibility.

Abstinence-only programs offer condom failure rates that do not match the CDC failure rates, or distort statistics on the topic. For example, Scott & White Worth the Wait (used by Frisco ISD) says condoms fail 15% of the time. The publication does not include the information that condoms fail 15% of the time based on user error (opening the package with one’s teeth, for example). When used perfectly, condoms fail only 2% of the time. (Wiley, et al., pg. 19) If teens are taught the correct way to use a condom, the failure rate lowers significantly. However, none of these programs teach the proper use of a condom, which only perpetuates the myth that they are unreliable.

Choosing The Best Path (used by Allen ISD) uses a fill-in-the-blank worksheet whose answer states, “because latex condoms are made of rubber, they can break and slip-off.” (Wiley, et al., pg 20) This statement is wholly misleading. According to a study in Consumer Reports, “with correct use, a condom will break as little as 2 percent of the time, authorities believe, and will slip off as little as 1 percent of the time.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 20) Choosing the Best Path leaves students thinking slippage and breakage are due to latex, and so won’t trust condoms to work.

The Medical Institute (used by Plano ISD) informs students that “condom breakage and slippage is estimated to occur 1-4% of the time,” (Wiley, et al., pg. 20) another misleading statement. It does not distinguish between latex and non-latex condoms, which have very different breakage and slippage statistics. Also, medical experts do not recommend using non-latex condoms for STD prevention.

According to Wiley and Wilson, “much of the misguided propaganda against condoms…stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of risk reduction.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 20) The authors explain that abstinence-only proponents assume that because condoms do not offer 100% protection they are some how “inadequate” or “flawed.” Rather, condoms are a tool for risk reduction much like air bags or lap-shoulder belts in cars.
Air bag use reduces mortality by 63%, lap-shoulder belt use reduces mortality by 72%. Even though they don’t reduce risk 100 percent, safety laws mandate using them both. Condoms provide even better risk reduction but are dismissed to the detriment of our children.
The Sex Might Not Kill You but the STDs Will

Apparently, abstinence-only program designers see STDs as an opportunity to frighten teens into abstinence rather than an opportunity to inform. Contracting disease is scary and abstinence-only proponents use that fear to great effect.

WAIT Training (used by McKinney ISD) includes a handout that lists in three columns “High Risk, “At Risk” or “No Risk” behaviors regarding HIV/AIDS (Wiley, et al., pg. 21). The “High Risk” behaviors are accurate, but the “At Risk” behaviors are either misleading or clearly outdated. The “At Risk” list includes French Kissing – the CDC characterizes this behavior as “very low” risk for contracting HIV/AIDS. The column also includes the words “tears,” “sweat” and “saliva.” Contact with these bodily fluids has never been proven to result in transmission of HIV, as stated by the CDC.
By creating categories that do not accurately describe the risk of contracting HIV, WAIT Training authors get to make most sexual behavior risky, and scary.
HIV isn’t the only STD used to scare students into being abstinent: Human papillomavirus (HPV) “has emerged in recent years as a prime target for anti-condom activists who simultaneous trumpet its dire health consequences and question…the effectiveness of condoms in preventing it.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 22)

First, here’s what is true: HPV is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different strains or types. More than 30 of these are sexually transmitted. It can infect the genital area of men and women. Most people who get it don’t know and it clears up on its own. Because HPV is in the genital area, like the vulva or rectum, it is fair to say that HPV cannot be “entirely prevented” by condom use. To say that they “don’t work” or “provide little to no protection” is not accurate. (Wiley, et al., pg. 23)

So what do our students learn about HPV and STDs in general?
  • Aim for Success states in a slide presentation on HPV, “Condoms are ineffective!” and “Condoms – little to no benefit.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 22)
  • Wait Training states students “should be told that condoms do not appear to provide any protection from HPV, (which causes 99% of all cervical cancer).” (Wiley, et al., pg. 22)
  • WAIT Training tells teachers to inform students “that, when used every time, condoms at best only provide a 50% reduction in the transmission rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.” A study in the June 2005 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that “consistent and correct condom use provide a 90% reduction in the risk of gonorrhea and 60% reduction in the risk of chlamydia infection.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 23)
  • Scott & White Worth the Wait tell students that pelvic inflammatory disease is “caused” by chlamydia and gonorrhea but in reality the STDs can lead to PID if they go untreated. The program does not inform students about getting tested for STDs, which could avert serious problems like PID. (Wiley, et al., pg.23)
A few “random” errors here or there shouldn’t make any difference, right? Consider that these errors are not random but selected with the sole purpose of frightening students into abstinence. As Wiley and Wilson put it, “putting the ethics of misleading students aside, providing false information deprives students of critical information they need to make informed wise choices – not just while they are in high school, but for their entire adult lives.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 23)

This year, Texas Freedom Network and Planned Parenthood came together to lobby for the Education Works! bill, which would have guaranteed schools teach medically accurate sexual health information. Unfortunately, the bill failed to pass. One hopes that it will not take a full-blown chlamydia epidemic in Collin County to convince adults that teens need the correct information, not fear, to keep them safe. With rates increasing each year, we might be headed in that direction if we don’t make change soon.
SIDEBAR: WHERE DO THESE QUESTIONABLE STATISTICS COME FROM? (pg. 22 of “Just Say Don’t kNOw,” by Dr. David Wiley, Dr. Kelly Wilson and Ryan Valentine)
The origin of many of these bogus claims can not be identified because so many of them are not sited. However, a number of those that are sited can be traced back to The Medical Institute, a pro-abstinence organization that promotes research that supports this point of view. Here is an example of how the Medical Institute (Plano ISD’s only abstinence-only supplemental program) distorts studies on sexual health to further it’s abstinence-only philosophy:

The claim that “condoms provide a 50 percent reduction in the transmission rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia” appears in several classroom materials including McKinney ISD’s WAIT Training. The organization came up with the 50% statistic from three legitimate studies: Kenyan prostitutes, Ugandans living in areas with high prevalence of HIV and patients who attended an urban sexually transmitted disease clinic.

No Collin County students fall into the demographic of these studies. All three of the studies based their findings on inconsistent use of condoms and all three studies declared that consistent use of condoms offers protection from STDs and should be encouraged. Yet, the most conservative finding of 50% protection is passed off as the “common” efficacy rate to our students. (pg. 22)

Click For Summary Of Teaching Materials Used In Each ISD

The Texas Democratic Women of Collin Co. Will Host Guest Speaker Kathy Miller, Pres. Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, At The Group's Meeting On Monday, July 27, 2009. Ms. Miller will talk about the Education Fund's year-long study on sexuality health education in Texas public schools. See the "Calendar Box" in the left sidebar of this blog for more details.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tough Calls On Sex Education In Texas Schools

In a brief article titled "Sex Education In Public Schools -- Tough Call?" a Dallas Morning News blog post referenced an article in this blog about sex education curricula in school districts around Collin County. The DMN blog post asked if teaching abstinence-plus, which includes information about contraceptives, is a good idea.

Good idea or not, the "tough call" is likely to get a lot tougher for Collin County school board trustees, school administrators and School Health Advisory Councils if the U.S. Congress accepts President Obama's 2010 budget proposal. Pres. Obama's 2010 budget will cut federal abstinence-only funding that has been flowing into Texas for a decade. Texas as a whole might have to loosen its stubborn insistence on abstinence-only sex education, if President Obama's 2010 budget proposal is adopted.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas received almost $18 million in federal "abstinence-only" funding in 2007, matched by $3 million in state funds in that year. While Republican Gov. Rick Perry rejected federal "economic stimulus" money in 2009, meant to aid unemployed Texans, Gov. Perry has said he supports Texas' abstinence-only sex ed programs, which are largely funded by federal money. "The governor is comfortable with current law and supports abstinence programs," said Gov. Perry's spokeswoman, Allison Castle. [Houston Chronicle]

Texas, in accepting more federal abstinence-only education funding than any other state, has largely adopted the federally mandated "strings" attached to the money.
For example, the federal Title V abstinence-only education program mandates that grant recipients adopt “abstinence education” which:
  1. Has as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;
  2. Teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children;
  3. Teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;
  4. Teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity;
  5. Teaches that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects;
  6. Teaches that bearing children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society;
  7. Teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increase vulnerability to sexual advances, and
  8. Teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.
Title V funded programs are not permitted to advocate or discuss contraceptive methods except to emphasize their failure rates. The Title V teaching requirements listed above are coded in the federal law (Title V, Section 510 (b)(2)(A-H) of the Social Security Act (P.L. 104-193) authorizing the " abstinence-focused" funding. (HHS Reference here)
The Texas education code does not require public schools to offer sex education. But if they do, the teaching plan must be abstinence-focused, and instruction about contraceptives must be couched in terms of how often they fail, according to language added to the Texas education code in 1995 with legislation authored by State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston and co-author Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa. The "abstinence-focused" language was added to then Governor Bush's education bill that created School Health Advisory Committees (SHACs) in each school district. While the "abstinence-focused" language does not outlaw abstinence-plus teaching plans, which includes information about safe sex and STD prevention, the law is widely interpreted by social conservatives as an exclusive mandate for abstinence-only teaching plans.

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, he was a vocal proponent of abstinence-only sex education programs and started increasing federal spending on abstinence-only education in U.S. schools, with the hope that it would reach $320 million a year. Federal abstinence-only education funding reached a maximum level of approximately $214 million per year during President Bush's second term in 2008. (abstinence-only funding> graph)

Several recent studies, including a large 2008 federal study, reveal that after more than a decade of increasing federal and state government spending and emphasis on abstinence-only education, the program has failed to achieve its purpose.

Studies show that teenagers who receive abstinence-only sex education are just as likely to have premarital sex as teens who receive abstinence-plus or other variations of comprehensive sex education. Further, teens and young adults that received abstinence-only education are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do engage in sexual activity.

Other recent studies from multiple sources show that after falling steadily for more than a decade, the birth rate for American teenagers again started to increase after 2005. The teen birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1992 and 2005, according to National Center for Health Statistics. Recent government statistics also shows that one in four U.S. teenage girls has contracted a sexually transmitted disease and 30 percent of U.S. girls become pregnant before the age of 20.

Even though Texas has received more federal dollars for abstinence-only sex education than any other state in the union, the state has the third highest teen birth rate in the nation -- 50% higher than the national average. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) a Texas teen gets pregnant every 10 minutes. Texas Medicaid paid for 17,322 deliveries to teen mothers aged 13-17 in 2007 and according to National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy data, teen childbearing (teens 19 and younger) costs Texas taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $1 billion annually. That $1 billion annual payment is on top of the $21 million dollars in federal and state tax payer money spent annually on government sponsored abstinence-only sex education that is increasing rather decreasing Texas teen pregnancy rates.

Evidence compiled over almost twenty years shows that abstinence-plus programs (programs that stress abstinence before marriage, but also that provides comprehensive sex education) reduces teen pregnancies and STD infections:
After the teen birth rate rose sharply between 1986 and 1991, hitting an all-time high of 61.8 births per 1,000 girls, the Clinton Administration promoted an abstinence-plus type sex education campaign. That program successfully reversed the rising teen birth trend and and teen pregnancies plummeted between through the 1990s until 2005.

The $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars the federal government has redirected to "abstinence-only" teaching programs since President Bush was elected in 2000 has delivered increasing rates of teen pregnancies and STD infections.
To again stem the tide of increasing rates of teen pregnancies and STD infections, President Obama's 2010 budget asks congress to terminate President Bush's Community-Based Abstinence-Only Education (CBAE), Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA), mandatory Title V Abstinence-Only Education, Compassion Capital Fund and Rural Communities programs. In place of these conservative Abstinence-Only Education Initiatives President Obama's budget is asking congress to authorize at least $164 million in funding for abstinence-plus type comprehensive sexuality health education initiatives.
So, beginning next year, if the U.S. Congress accepts President Obama's 2010 budget proposals, Texas will lose all of its federal abstinence-only sex education funding. Further, future federal funding for sex education flowing to the state will have certain strings attached that will mandate that the federal money must be used for abstinence-plus comprehensive sexuality health education initiatives.
Texas, from Gov. Perry through the state's education agencies down to the local school board trustees, School Health Advisory Councils and school administrators, will have to make some "tough calls" about what to teach Texas teens. What "tough calls" will the Governor, state legislators, state education agency officials, local school board trustees and school administrators make given 94 percent of Texas' school districts are locked into abstinence-only programs?

Will Governor Perry, who counts social conservatives as a large part of his base, make the "tough call" to refuse Obama's federal comprehensive sexuality health education funding, just as he refused Obama's federal funding to aid unemployed Texans?
Social conservatives in Texas and Collin County, who absolutely reject the idea of teaching safe sex in schools, likely will not accept President Obama's 2010 federal " comprehensive" sex education funding program, even if it does still stress abstinence as a first choice.

On the other hand, a August Texas Poll shows that 90 percent of Texans favor teaching students age-appropriate, medically accurate information on abstinence, birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

If Gov. Perry supports the social conservative position on this issue to win the conservative vote for the 2010 Republican primary, he risks loosing the November 2010 general election.
If Governor Perry rejects Pres. Obama's " comprehensive" sex education federal funding, what "tough call" will he make to find state tax money to continue abstinence-only education programs.

What "tough calls" would a Governor K. B. Hutchison or Governor Tom Schieffer make to accept and use or reject federal comprehensive sex ed funding. Will Texas' conservative Republican legislators make the "tough call" to override Governor's rejection of federal funding for comprehensive sex education?

Will Texas legislators rework Texas education law to promote federally mandated comprehensive sex education teaching programs, even if social conservative Republican voters oppose it? Will local school board trustees and school administrators make the "tough call" to remake their abstinence-only sex education teaching plans into comprehensive abstinence-plus teaching plans to qualify for federal education funds? If not, how will they pay for abstinence-only education programs absent federal funding support?

And, last, but not least, Republicans from the fiscal conservative wing of the party should be asking Republicans from the social conservative wing of the party why they insist on spending the tax payers' money on abstinence-only government programs when, by every measure, they fail to work.

Parent, voters and the ladies and gentleman of the press really need to start asking these questions.

Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Part 2

Texas Textbooks Not Mandated To Teach
This is Part 2 of a 5 part series on the state of sexuality health education in Collin County based on the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund study, “Just Say Don’t kNOw” by Dr. David Wiley, Dr. Kelly Wilson and Ryan Valentine. A copy of the study can be found online at The series is researched and written by Linda Magid.

In Part 1 of our series, we gave an overview of the state of sex education in Texas: statewide students are either misinformed or learn nothing at all about how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy beyond abstinence. In Part 2, we will look at how the Texas Education Code deals with sexuality health and what is and isn’t covered in the state textbooks and supplemental programs.

Students Learn Little to Nothing about Human Sexuality

Texas Education Code mandates that sexuality instruction must be part of public school curriculum and that abstinence be taught as the preferred choice of sexual behavior (“Just Say Don’t kNOw,” Wiley, Wilson and Valentine, pg. 5).

The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) states that students “should be able to ‘analyze the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of barrier protection and other contraceptive methods including the prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), keeping in mind the effectiveness of remaining abstinent until marriage.’” (Wiley, et al., pg. 7).

Given students might be tested on this information, you might be surprised to learn that 4 of 5 Texas textbooks do not mention the word ‘condom’ ever. (Wiley, et al., pg. 8) The one textbook that mention condoms does so only one time. The four North Texas ISDs covered in this article use the textbooks silent about barrier protection from pregnancy and STDs.
  • Glencoe/McGraw-Hill: Health
  • Glencoe/McGraw-Hill: Health and Wellness (McKinney, Frisco, Allen)
  • Holt, Rinehart and Winston: Lifetime Health (Plano, Frisco, Allen)
  • Thomson/Delmar Learning: Essentials of Health and Wellness
  • *Harcourt: Harcourt Health and Fitness (used only by Frisco, not recognized by the TFN report as an approved textbook statewide).
According to the report, publishers self-censored the health education textbooks to avoid political battles in 2004. Rather than place condom information in the textbook, they included more in-depth information in the teacher’s edition and student supplements. However, few districts use these materials.

McKinney ISD is the only district of the four that use any publisher-written supplemental information - Glencoe Teen Health Course 1 and Workbook, Glencoe Teen Health Course 2 and Workbook, Glencoe Teen Health Course 3 and Workbook. According to the Glencoe website, these books are a “combination of course material and interactive multimedia resources” for middle school students, offering “instruction in the 10 health skills.”

Based on an interactive website presentation, it could not be determined if the materials mention sexual health at all.

Texas textbook publishers realize that they need to give students some kind of protection instruction and choose a non-offensive, and unhelpful, tack.
For example, Lifetime Health published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston (used by Plano, Frisco and Allen ISDs) attempts to address protection by substituting scientific information with behavioral modification.

The textbook offers “8 Steps to Protect Yourself from STDs” with steps like choosing good friends, developing appropriate decision-making skills and “getting plenty of rest.” None of the steps include using barrier protection. (Wiley, et al., pg. 9)
Are the textbooks used in our county’s school districts to teach abstinence-only information adequately preparing our students for impending adulthood? Do abstinence-only supplemental programs give our teens any support?

According to The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), abstinence-only programs “rarely provide information on even the most basic topics in human sexuality such as puberty, reproductive anatomy and sexual health.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 7)

Plano, McKinney, Allen and Frisco ISDs supplement their sexuality education with abstinence-only programs, and few of those programs cover essential health issues adequately or in depth.
For example, Aim for Success (McKinney, Allen and Frisco) offers no information on basic anatomy and physiology, puberty, menstrual cycles or any other basic sexuality education information. Worth the Wait (Frisco) includes some basic components of sexuality education but discusses only the negatives of birth control and only mentions STD testing.
According to a 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, over 50% of male and female high school students “reported having engaged in sexual intercourse at least once.” (Wiley, et al., pg. 8) With half the teens in Texas choosing to have sex, withholding vital health information from them based on political fear is reprehensible at best and dangerous at worst.

Specifically in our four largest ISDs, more research needs to be done to determine if they are avoiding both basic reproductive health information as well as medically accurate STD and pregnancy protection instruction.

Next in the series: Part 3 - “Condoms Don’t Work” and Other Misinformation.

The Texas Democratic Women of Collin Co. Will Host Guest Speaker Kathy Miller, Pres. Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, At The Group's Meeting On Monday, July 27, 2009. Ms. Miller will talk about the Education Fund's year-long study on sexuality health education in Texas public schools. See the "Calendar Box" in the left sidebar of this blog for more details.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Questions Submitted To DPCC Chair Candidates By DCDC

On July 22, 2009 the Democratic Party of Collin County (DPCC) Executive Committee,that includes all county precinct chairs, will elect a new chairperson in a special election.

To aid the DPCC Precinct Chairs in selecting the best qualified candidate for the county chair position, the Democratic Campaign Development Coalition (DCDC) has invited the candidates to answer questions at the group's July 14th general meeting, said DCDC spokesperson Linda Magid.

DPCC chair candidates Shawn Stevens, Victor Manuel and Marlene Byndon have agreed to participate in this candidate's forum.

All DPCC Precinct Chairs have been invited to attend this meeting. Rank and file Democrats in the county are welcome to attend this meeting, as available seating allows, however, DPCC Precinct Chairs will be given first preference for the available seats.

Because this special election cycle is so short and because time during the DCDC candidate's forum on July 14th is limited, DCDC has submitted fourteen key questions to the candidates. These fourteen questions ask the candidates to reflect on several different aspects of the local party's organization and potential to help elect Democrats for Collin County, statewide and national offices.

The candidates will be asked only a few of the fourteen questions during the candidate's forum discussion on July 14, according to the DCDC spokesperson. The questions will be selected and asked by forum moderator, David Smith. Mr. Smith, is a precinct chair in the county and a long time activist with the DPCC. During each question round the forum moderator will ask each candidate to answer a selected question. The candidates will be allowed by the moderator to specifically answer the question asked, or respond to another candidate's answer given in that round.

The DCDC has asked the candidates to return written answers to the fourteen questions by July 14. According to the DCDC spokesperson, the candidates' full written answers will be made available to the DPCC precinct chairs following the discussion forum.

Questions submitted to the candidates by DCDC are as follows:

  1. Define your leadership style and explain how it fits into your vision of leading the party.

  2. Tell us how you would structure the party under your leadership and how you will recruit, train, work with and retain your executive committee of precinct chairs and committee chairs. What principles will guide you in recruiting and selecting volunteers, in particular for officers and committee chair positions?

  3. Party members would like the party to be more inclusive and open. What, if any, changes would you make to recent county party leadership practices?

  4. There are several active Democratic groups, such as the Democratic Campaign Development Coalition, Obama Collin County, Texas Democratic Women of Collin County, Stonewall Democrats, etc. Describe the kind of coalition--building relationships you will form between the Party and these organizations.
Strategic Plan
  1. We have highlighted for you the draft strategic plan for the Democratic Party of Collin County and we know that you have participated in drafting it. In your vision for the party, do you agree with the goals set forth? Is there anything you would change? How would you implement it?
Winning Elections
  1. What are your plans in the next several months for 2010 candidate recruitment and development?

  2. What are your plans to help state-wide and local Democratic candidates get elected? Will your plans include reinstating the party’s Coordinated Campaign Committee?

  3. We are aware the demographics of the County are changing as we grow; and we are aware there is an untapped and diverse citizenry who historically vote as Democrats, as seen in the recent election. What are your plans for outreach to these voters?
  1. We recognize the need to raise funds for running the party, for the Primary, the county convention, helping get Democrats elected, developing IT infrastructure and paying for staff. What is your plan to ensure adequate funding for the party?
Party Operations
  1. The coming Democratic Primary and County Convention are solely the responsibility of the party. What is your plan for administering them?

  2. What will you do to ensure coordination and smooth operations between the Party and the County Elections Office regarding all election activities?

  3. How will you use all of the technologies available today to meet our goals? What will be your approach towards making any improvements?
  1. We understand there is a Texas Democratic Party County Chair Association. Do you plan to take time to travel to Austin to participate in this association’s events, learn about best practices, and make an effort to implement improvements in our County?

  2. If you don’t win this election, how do you anticipate working with the new county chair? If you do win the election, how are you going to bring the other two candidates and their supporters into the fold?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Part 1

Editor's Note: This is the first of a five part series of articles about sexuality health education curricula found in Collin County school districts, researched and written by Linda Magid.

In February 2009, Texas Freedom Network announced that the Texas school system is failing to protect our students.

Based on a year-long study on sexuality health education in Texas schools titled “Just Say Don’t kNOw”, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (the research arm of TFN) has established that, statewide, curricula are based almost exclusively on abstinence-only textbooks and programs. These tools for teaching teens are misinforming (and sometimes blatantly lying to) students on how they can protect themselves from the risks of sexual activity if they choose to be sexually active.

The alternative program, abstinence-plus, which prepares teens for adult life decisions by presenting pre-marital abstinence as the best choice while providing accurate information on planned parenting options, is rarely taught in Texas schools.

In a nutshell, Texas teens leave high school and enter adult life unprepared for pregnancy prevention, defense against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and general sexual health issues beyond abstinence.

While TFN has claimed for years that this kind of insufficient and potentially damaging education is going on, their report is the first to tally information directly from the school districts. 990 out of 1,031 school districts participated in the survey, a total of 96%. Of those 990, 94% use abstinence-only materials, 3.6% us abstinence-plus materials, and 2.3% skip sex education all together.

As a result of their research, Authors Dr. David Wiley and Dr. Kelly Wilson definitively declare, “Abstinence-only programs have a stranglehold on sexuality education in Texas public schools.”

None of the ISDs who use abstinence-plus materials are in Collin County. What do our schools use, then? And what can the report tell us about what our students learn in school regarding sexual health education?

Over the course of several segments, this blog will present what “Just Say Don’t kNOw” uncovers about the sexuality health education in Allen, McKinney, Plano and Frisco ISDs. We will also discover how effective our School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) are in guiding the local School Boards on this topic. Lastly, we will offer suggestions on how to change the current trend of fear and misinformation in our health classrooms.

First, let’s look at how Texas fares in comparison to the rest of the country. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, “young Texans overall rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behavior” (Just Say Don’t kNOw, pg. 1). Behavior such as:
  • Having sexual intercourse (52.9% of Texan Teens vs. 47.8% national average);
  • Having intercourse with four or more people (17.1% vs. 14.9%); and
  • Not using a condom the last time they had intercourse (43.6% vs. 38.5%).
What is the result of so many Texas children engaging in sexually risky behavior? In 2006, Texas had the third highest teen birth rate in the country, an increase from 2005. In addition, Texas taxpayers spend an estimated $1 billion annually for the cost of teen childrearing. In 2008, Chlamydia cases among Collin County teens were up a staggering 27%. (Texas Department of State Health Services)

Second, let’s talk about the difference between abstinence-only sexuality health education and abstinence-plus. According to the TFN report,
“Abstinence-only sexuality education programs present abstinence as the only choice of acceptable behavior for unmarried youth.” (pg.7)
Currently, abstinence-only programs avoid discussing condoms and other contraception or they offer false and misleading information on contraceptives’ ability to offer risk protection (most specifically, condoms).

Abstinence-only proponents claim that telling teens how to have safe sex is akin to telling them to go and have sex. Texas teen birth statistics show clearly that teens are having sex regardless of what teachers tell them. The 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that over 50% of Texas high school students reported having engaged in sexual intercourse at least once. (Just Say Don’t kNOw, pg. 8)

Across the country, abstinence-only programs are failing. According to the latest CDC report published March 18, 2009, “the birth rate for U.S. teenagers 15-19 years rose again in 2007 by about 1 percent, to 42.5 births per 1,000.” President Bush only offered Federal Title V compensation to schools teaching abstinence-only programs. Many schools across the country, already cash-strapped, took the bait to offset expenses. (Texas receives the most federal abstinence dollars - $18 million in 2007 alone.) We can now see the results.

On the other hand, abstinence-plus programs offer abstinence as the best choice to protect oneself but deals with the reality that not all students are going to make that choice. Programs in this category urge abstinence from pre-marital sex while teaching teens the facts of life to prepare them for adult life decisions. For example, abstinence-plus programs teach students who choose to be sexually active how to protect themselves from STDs by giving them medically accurate information based on studies done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

If, then, Collin County’s largest ISDs follow a strict abstinence-only sexuality health program, what are students learning? According to the research done by TFN, Texas students are victims of the abstinence-only “conspiracy of silence.” In the series that follows, you will see that Collin County is as silent as the rest of Texas on the topic of sexual health.

While our series will focus on ISDs in Allen, McKinney, Plano and Frisco, Collin County contains many other smaller school districts. School districts that reside exclusively in Collin County includes:
  • Allen ISD
  • Anna ISD
  • Blue ridge ISD
  • Celina ISD
  • Community ISD
  • Farmersville ISD
  • Frisco ISD
  • Lovejoy ISD
  • Mckinney ISD
  • Melissa ISD
  • Plano ISD
  • Princeton ISD
  • Prosper ISD
  • Wylie ISD
School districts that are shared between Collin County and other counties include portions of:
  • Bland ISD
  • Gunter ISD
  • Leonard ISD
  • Royse city ISD
  • Trenton ISD
  • Van alstyne ISD
  • Whitewright ISD
What do the schools in your school district teach?

Related Postings:
Additional Reading:
The Texas Democratic Women of Collin Co. Will Host Guest Speaker Kathy Miller, Pres. Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, At The Group's Meeting On Monday, July 27, 2009. Ms. Miller will talk about the Education Fund's year-long study on sexuality health education in Texas public schools. See the "Calendar Box" in the left sidebar of this blog for more details.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Letter To The Editor From Victor Manuel

On July 22, 2009 the Democratic Party of Collin County Executive Committee will elect a new chairperson. In light of the July 22nd special election, as a public service, this blog has extended an offer to each of the of Collin County Democratic Party Chair Candidates to submit a letter to the editor. The following letter is from Party Chair Candidate Victor Manuel:

Letter To The Editor
By Victor Manuel

Riding the Youth Wave to victory

When people ask me about how creating more social groups outside the DPCC can help the Party, I think of the Collin College Young Democrats. The energy, passion, and dedication of youth are powerful to behold. Groups such as the UT Dems and the Dallas County Young Democrats keep trying to gain strength in Collin County.

Yet for all our efforts, youth involvement in the Collin County is waning. The best way to engage people under 30 is not only to enliven the Democratic Party of Collin County, but to also coordinate and support other organizations within the county.

In July of last year, several students fired up about the election started the Collin College Young Democrats. I attended their first meeting, and saw students curious about how to get involved. But without support and communication from the Party, their own leadership could not help them make a difference in the election.

I also visited the UT Dems, a group of students attending University of Texas at Dallas. They were also fired up and very passionate about the race. But without direction on how to help campaigns and get involved with the DPCC or other groups, they were content to show films and eat pizza. They were, after all, college students.

How important was the youth vote in 2008? Election results across the country confirmed that the youngest members of the electorate voted in unprecedented numbers last November. Not only that, but their vote leaned hard to the Democrats. Young voters preferred Obama over McCain by 68 percent to 30 percent – the highest share of the youth vote since records started in 1976, according to CIRCLE. In order for us to succeed in Collin County in 2010, it will be vital for us to retain their support.

In the end, the DPCC should not only be a coordinator for other Democratic social groups throughout the county, we should consider them vital to our survival. Without the Collin College Young Democrats and the UT Dems, we will not have a window into college activity.

Without an active Men’s Club and Women’s Club in the area, we will not have a place where issues more relevant to men than women (or vice versa) can be actively discussed. Groups such as the Stonewall Democrats, the Allen Democrats, and Obama For America offer a narrower scope, but are no less vital for our survival. We need these groups and more, because in order to be the Big Tent Party, you first have to have a big tent.

Ever Onward,

Victor Manuel.
Mr. Manuel grew up in Garland, Texas and has lived in McKinney for six years. A former U.S. Marine, Mr. Manuel ran as the Democratic candidate for Collin County Commissioner, Precinct 3, against Republican Joe Jaynes in 2008. Since losing his 2008 election bid, Mr. Manuel has conducted candidate training classes for other Democrats interested in running for office in 2010.

This blog is not affiliated with the Democratic Party of Collin County or any of the candidates standing for election to the Democratic Party of Collin County Chair. Letters to the editor of this blog have only been edited for format suitable to this blog.