CSCOPE Witch Hunt Flares Up Again: Sen. Patrick and AG Abbott Target Educators

Just two months after gutting a curriculum tool that nearly 900 Texas school districts were using, state Sen. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have decided they’re not done harassing educators and wasting taxpayer dollars.

Last week Patrick called on the Texas State Auditor’s Office to review the operations of the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC), which was managing the CSCOPE curriculum program. The TESCCC (a nonprofit entity) was a collaboration of the state’s 20 Education Service Centers (ESCs). Abbott sent a letter to the auditor’s office making the same request a week earlier and tweeted on Sunday that “our investigation into #CSCOPE continues.”

No one has provided even a shred of evidence that the TESCCC, which was created to protect the intellectual property rights to CSCOPE, was involved in financial shenanigans. But right-wing activists — the same ones who absurdly claim that CSCOPE’s lessons (written largely by current and retired Texas teachers) are anti-American, anti-Christian, pro-Marxist and pro-Islam — have been demanding that someone “investigate” anyway.

Patrick, who has announced a run for lieutenant governor next year, and Abbot, who has launched a bid for the Governor’s Mansion, have been the most prominent politicians pandering to the anti-CSCOPE fanatics. (The two have Republican primaries to win, after all.) First those fanatics demanded that the Legislature give the State Board of Education authority over CSCOPE’s lessons, authority the state board has over no other curriculum program. Then in February, Patrick pressured the Education Service Centers into agreeing to submit CSCOPE’s lessons to the state board for review. That review began in the following weeks. The service centers also agreed to shut down the TESCCC and to make all of the lessons available online for public review.

But Patrick and Abbott apparently decided that those agreements didn’t go far enough. Over the objections of school districts that were concerned about losing the ability to make local decisions about the curriculum materials they use, Sen. Patrick pushed legislation — Senate Bill 1406 — to require CSCOPE lessons to be reviewed by the state board. Then after more political bullying, the Education Service Centers agreed in May to drop lessons from CSCOPE altogether, largely gutting the program. Patrick boasted that “the era of CSCOPE lesson plans has come to an end,” and the state board halted its review. The Legislature subsequently passed SB 1406 anyway.

Dismayed by the twists and turns of this political witch hunt, teachers and administrators in hundreds of school districts were left scrambling to find a way to replace all of those CSCOPE lessons before the start of the 2013-14 school year. Most of these small and medium-sized districts simply don’t have the resources to create curriculum plans, which is why they found CSCOPE so valuable. Many teachers began downloading and archiving the existing CSCOPE lessons so they could continue using them. Far-right critics were outraged (they want to kill CSCOPE completely), leading Patrick to call on parents to report those teachers to him so he could turn them over to the attorney general’s office for investigation. But Patrick apparently didn’t realize that by pressuring the service centers to shut down the entity — TESCCC — that owned the rights to those lessons, the lessons essentially exist now in the public domain. And, in fact, that’s what the legal counsel for the Texas Education Agency said at last week’s State Board of Education meeting.

So that brings us to the request by Patrick and Abbott for an audit of the now-nonexistent TESCCC over allegations for which no one has provided any evidence. Got all that?

The state auditor will have to decide whether it’s worth taxpayer money to investigate the TESCCC. If such an audit turns up no problems, taxpayers can point their fingers at Patrick and Abbott. (Patrick is still pushing other falsehoods in his attacks on CSCOPE. On his Facebook page last Friday, Patrick repeated his claim that “according to the Texas Tribune districts that used CSCOPE saw lower scores on the STAAR tests than districts who did not use the program.” That claim — along with many others Patrick has made regarding CSCOPE — is not true. The Texas Tribune conducted no such study.)

Meanwhile, some state board members want to restart the aborted review of CSCOPE’s lessons. Member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, plans to propose doing so at the board’s board meeting. In a press release on Friday, Ratliff explained his reasoning:

This artificial controversy has gone on too long without someone at the state level taking charge and performing a review of these lessons and separating myth from reality and education from politics.

It’s unfortunate that so much time, energy and taxpayer dollars have been wasted because Senator Patrick was too quick to run to the Senate Press Room before he fully vetted the policy and practical implications of his actions. It’s clear that being a leader requires more than having a good press conference. We now have hundreds of districts, thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students being impacted because of the political ambitions of one person. Education is too important to be a political pawn and the SBOE is going to do what we can to get those schoolchildren off of the chess board.

Patrick’s SB 1406 gives the state board authority to review those lessons. But now anti-CSCOPE activists are objecting to the very lesson review that they had been demanding for months. Maybe they’re worried Ratliff is right: a review will show that their political attacks on CSCOPE as anti-American, Marxist and the like have been complete nonsense. Like Patrick and Abbott, they really haven’t thought any of this through very well.

Ratliff’s full press release from Friday follows after the jump:

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY TRUMP RUMORS AND POLITICS

I am proud to announce that the State Board of Education will once again discuss a review of the CSCOPE lesson plans in compliance with SB 1406 passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature. I appreciate Chairwoman Cargill listening to the majority of our board and agreeing to put this item on our September agenda. I know her decision was not an easy one, but it was the right one.

This artificial controversy has gone on too long without someone at the state level taking charge and performing a review of these lessons and separating myth from reality and education from politics.

It’s unfortunate that so much time, energy and taxpayer dollars have been wasted because Senator Patrick was too quick to run to the Senate Press Room before he fully vetted the policy and practical implications of his actions. It’s clear that being a leader requires more than having a good press conference. We now have hundreds of districts, thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students being impacted because of the political ambitions of one person. Education is too important to be a political pawn and the SBOE is going to do what we can to get those schoolchildren off of the chess board.

I am confident that the SBOE will do the right thing by providing transparency and accountability regarding these lessons and helping our local school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers stay focused on their important task at hand, rather than defending themselves against baseless political attacks.

I look forward to a thoughtful and vigorous discussion of this issue in September.

This article was posted in these categories: CSCOPE, Dan Patrick, Greg Abbott, State Board of Education, TFN, Thomas Ratliff. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post.Trackbacks are closed, but you can Post a Comment.


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8 Comments

  1. celia zamadics
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Dan Patrick needs to go back to being a sportscaster.

  2. Rhonda
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Hard to believe such ignorant people are in charge of what my grandchildren will learn in school. We’ve come to expect these republican dunces to do anything possible to further their political futures. It’s all about them and their personal power, and to hell with being concerned about the children of this state. We need to band together and rid this state of these political extremists.

  3. 1toughlady
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I’m out of patience with these morons. Somehow we need to get them out of office.

  4. Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    wow, thank you Alice for posting the platform. They explicitly state they oppose the teaching of critical thinking skills! Wow. No need to compete in the global market, I guess, let’s just dumb it down to the information level of what was known and believed two generations ago. Oh, and more beatings for foster kids. Yes– they really, truly think that’s a good thing.

  5. Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh please. These clowns again.

  6. Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    These 2 clowns are determined to be the state’s leaders! Like Perry, more controversy to distract us while they plunder the state. Surely there is an someone who can beat them come elections!?!?

  7. Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Still waiting to see what they intend to replace it with. Teachers report in a month. The irony is that much of the complaints center around just a few lesson plans, and some of them involve thinking outside the box.

  8. Charles
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Just one comment, and I think it speaks for itself:

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