Comedian’s jab at schoolbooks makes the grade
Rocker Alice Cooper famously sang “school’s out for summer,” and on the July 6 episode of “The Colbert Report,” host Stephen Colbert saluted the “noted educator” but amended the song’s lyrics. “Depending on budget cuts, it could be out forever,” he said.
We won’t take the latenight Comedy Central host too literally, because he also said that the Texas State Board of Education revised the state’s social studies curriculum standards “so the books would no longer say that Sen. (Joseph) McCarthy was engaged in a witch hunt but, instead, was the star of ‘Bewitched.’”
Still, another claim caught our ear: “It turns out that Texas has an $18 billion budget shortfall and can’t afford its new science textbooks,” he said as a May 18 AmericanStatesman article flashed on the screen.
Since Colbert has his “I’s on Edjukashun,” a segment on his show about education news nationwide, we wondered whether he got that write. Er, right. First, let’s look at the budget shortfall. In a May 11 meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, Wayne Pulver, assistant director of the Legislative Budget Board, confirmed that lawmakers will start the next legislative session with a budget gap because of funds that will no longer be available from
sizable sources that helped balance the 2010-11 budget: $6.4 billion in federal stimulus money and $5.6 billion in one-time state funds.
When the committee chairman, Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, asked whether “that could add up to between $15 billion and $18 billion,” Pulver called the range “reasonable.”
Of course, projections are uncertain.
In April, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told the San Antonio-Express News that the budget gap couldn’t yet be defined “because you don’t know — when you say shortfall, you imply some sort of mandatory spending level and some sort of predetermined revenue level, neither of which we have.
“There’s no shortfall if you don’t spend it,” Ogden said. “And we don’t know yet what our revenue projections are.”
How about them text - books?
On May 21, the State Board of Education voted to postpone issuing textbook Proclamation 2012, which calls for the purchase of new science textbooks for kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the Texas Education Agency.
The science books were estimated to cost $347 million, in addition to $888 million necessary to cover already-approved English materials, continuing contracts and freight.
“The state’s looming budget deficit, estimated to be $18 billion in the next biennium” pushed the board’s decision, the Texas Education Agency said.
Members instead decided instead to update the current textbooks with supplemental online material that covers the new science curriculum standards the board approved last year for science classes in fifth through eighth grades, plus biology, chemistry, physics and integrated physics and chemistry. What did we learn? Colbert cherry-picked the higher figure of the budget board’s latest shortfall projection — $18 billion — but so did the education agency in explaining the education board’s decision to delay buying new science textbooks.
We rate his statement as Mostly True.