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Ratliff: CSCOPE a target for extremists

In 1994, a band called Collective Soul released an album titled “Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid.” This looks like the title of the extremists’ efforts against the lesson plans known as CSCOPE.

The hints are when the extremists say “teachers are being forced to use these lessons and are being fired for speaking out,” but we are never given names of the actual people or school districts. I have asked superintendents all across the state if they have ever required CSCOPE to be taught. One hundred percent of them have said the lessons are optional for teachers to use as one of many resources in the classroom. For the record, I oppose teachers being required to do anything other than teach the Texas standards in any way they, as a professional, see fit to meet the needs of the students in their classrooms. I trust them to do just that.

The allegations are when the extremists talk about the “Communist” “Marxist” “Socialist” “anti-American” “pro-Muslim” curriculum. First, they need to make up their mind if it’s Communist, Marxist or Socialist. In a state as “red” as Texas, do people really believe kids are being taught to hate America? My own two children have attended public schools for the past 10 years; I’ve been a room parent and my wife is currently a high school teacher. We’ve never seen any lesson or heard anyone in our public schools utter a single word against America or anything regarding any religion other than respectful, objective, factual things they have learned. These allegations are simply fear-mongering designed to incite a mob.

The allegations are also when extremists claim that CSCOPE is aligned with the Common Core curriculum promoted by the federal government. It’s simply not true. CSCOPE was developed by Texas educators for Texas educators to teach Texas standards to Texas kids. Period. Again, more fear-mongering.

The allegations are also when extremists talk about parents being denied access to what their children are being taught. If that’s the case, schools are breaking the law and should be held accountable. Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code provides for “Parental Rights and Responsibilities,” including the right to see what happens in their child’s classroom. The fact is many of these extremists are not parents of public school students. Don’t blame CSCOPE for following Texas law. In fact, CSCOPE lessons are now online for anyone to see. Yet the extremists still want it banned from the classrooms. Transparency obviously isn’t the issue. Censorship and winning a political battle is the issue.

The allegations also blame CSCOPE for covering too much content during the school year. Wrong again. That problem was created by the State Board of Education who, in the past, made the number of student expectations “a mile long and an inch deep” according to the Texas Association of Business. I agree. We need standards that allow students to master the content, not merely memorize it long enough to score well on a standardized test. CSCOPE covers what the state board says is required. Again, don’t blame CSCOPE for following the law.

The extremists are entitled to their own opinions, but they aren’t entitled to their own facts.

The things left unsaid — This is a ploy by one state senator and a small group of extremists to use our public schools and our kids as political pawns for political gain.

When these same extremists protest against intrusion from Washington, it’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Their actions are indistinguishable from those to which they protest. The difference? They believe in the unfunded mandates they support while they oppose those that others pass. Can you say hypocrite? In many cases, the far right and the far left are identical in their pursuit to tell others how to live their lives.

This issue boils down to one word: Trust. I trust the 7,000-plus locally elected school board members across Texas to know what’s best for their communities, schools, parents and students. This won’t look the same all over Texas, nor should it. The extremists behind this artificial controversy don’t trust local schools to do their job, so they want big government to rule with an iron fist from Austin and micromanage our schools. Conservative? I think not.

I stand ready to have a public debate with Sen. Dan Patrick to get the facts out there for everyone to see. I look forward to a policy discussion with Senator Patrick, not an exchange of sound bites with candidate Patrick.

Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, is vice chairman of the State Board of Education.

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