Join Aransas school board in mak­ing waves

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION - STEVE FIS­CHER SPE­CIAL CON­TRIB­U­TOR Fis­cher, a Rock­port at­tor­ney, is a mem­ber of the Aransas County in­de­pen­dent school district board. he is a for­mer col­lege pro­fes­sor and ex-Wil­lacy County district at­tor­ney;

Al­though there has been wide­spread con­dem­na­tion of the State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion for rewrit­ing his­tory and sub­ject­ing Tex­ans to a host of ridicule, ul­ti­mately it is your school board — whether it be the Austin, Manor, Lago Vista, Eanes or any of the other 16 school boards in Travis County — that has the re­spon­si­bil­ity un­der the Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Code (Sec­tion 31) to de­cide our chil­dren’s in­struc­tional ma­te­ri­als.

The Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of School Boards is ac­cept­ing res­o­lu­tions to guide the pol­icy for our 1,235 school boards for its an­nual meet­ing in Septem­ber. Aside from lo­cal text­book se­lec­tion, the boards could form their own statewide text­book se­lec­tion com­mit­tees, choos­ing mem­bers who both have the req­ui­site grad­u­ate de­gree in the rel­e­vant field and who as­sert they have no po­lit­i­cal agenda.

Un­til the Austin school board acted two weeks ago, the Aransas County In­de­pen­dent School District board was the only district to ad­dress this. We hope the other Travis County school boards fol­low suit.

The Aransas district is not part of a large metro, mi­nor­ity or lib­eral area. Aransas County ISD, 180 miles di­rectly south of Austin, serves 26,500 mostly con­ser­va­tive and Repub­li­can con­stituents. Mak­ing waves in this re­served coastal com­mu­nity is gen­er­ally done by dol­phins that swim by our in­lets and pel­i­cans splashing for fish.

As a par­ent, at­tor­ney and school board mem­ber, I in­tro­duced the fol­low­ing: “TASB strongly con­demns the Texas State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion for in­ject­ing pol­i­tics, whether it be lib­eral or con­ser­va­tive, Demo­crat or Repub­li­can, into cur­ricu­lum se­lec­tion. Uti­liz­ing rec­og­nized ex­perts, the SBOE should adopt a for­mal and po­lit­i­cally neu­tral cur­ricu­lum se­lec­tion process.”

Board mem­ber Bill Rivera stated the most com­mon ob­jec­tion to my res­o­lu­tion: “There will al­ways be pol­i­tics; you can’t stop it.” This awoke my 17-year-old son, Huey, who, dur­ing the in­do­lent days be­tween his May grad­u­a­tion and his start at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, is of­ten still asleep at board meet­ing time. Huey ex­plained that it’s not just some pol­i­tics, but a whole­sale re­vi­sion.

With 4.8 mil­lion Texas school­child­ren, the cost of text­book changes ev­ery time a fringe group gets con­trol of our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem would be pro­hib­i­tive. It also vi­o­lates the spirit of the State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion’s con­sti­tu­tional duty to pro­vide free books for our chil­dren. Gone are the days of state bud­get sur­pluses, and one way or an­other, any new ma­te­ri­als will not be free.

Board mem­ber Sara Walvo­ord, a re­tired Cor­pus Christi teacher, asked, “We are send­ing the state board a mes­sage, but, Steve, do you re­ally want to smack them over the head with this ‘strongly con­demns’ lan­guage?”

With for­mer prin­ci­pal James Piper nod­ding ap­proval and re­mem­ber­ing teacher-prin­ci­pal con­fronta­tions from my past, I did what al­most ev­ery child con­fronted by author­ity does: I lied. I ac­cepted the wa­tered-down lan­guage. Alas, the winds of change in Rock­port will never match even the soft­est ocean breeze, but some district had to take the lead.

The Lib­erty Foun­da­tion, upon hear­ing what we were about to do, sent an Austin lob­by­ist to dis­suade us, but he must have got­ten lost in Rock­port traf­fic and ar­rived an hour af­ter the vote.

On this is­sue, one per­son can make a dif­fer­ence. Call your lo­cal school board mem­ber to place this on their agenda. For Texas to pros­per, at­tract peo­ple and to in­sure the best for our chil­dren, we don’t need lib­eral schools; we don’t need con­ser­va­tive schools; we just need great schools.

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