Co­me­dian’s jab at school­books makes the grade

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Ciara O’Rourke and Meghan Ash­ford-Grooms

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.

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