Category Archives: education news

Why the heavy security for DOE boss?

Betsy DeVos is getting a lot of security from the U.S. Marshals Office.

She’s the secretary of education. Yet her security detail is running up a significant tab, nearly $20 million through September 2019.

I can understand such heavy security for, oh, the Drug Enforcement Agency boss, or the secretary of state, or the secretary of defense, the CIA director, the FBI director, the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United Nations ambassador … and oh yes, the president and vice president of the United States of America.

But the education secretary? The individual charged with administering our nation’s public school systems?

DeVos has been heckled by protestors. The Justice Department ordered the protection after such heckling.

But, man, that’s a lot of money to spend guarding the nation’s public school boss. I would like to know what, precisely, we’re paying for.

SBOE inches toward a coming to its senses

It’s difficult for me to refer to the Texas State Board of Education as a 15-member gang of nincompoops. The SBOE, though, is showing troubling signs of seriously dunce-like behavior.

It had decided to remove two pioneer women from public school curricula: Helen Keller, a disability rights advocate and (get a load of this!) Hillary Rodham Clinton, the nation’s first female ever nominated for president by a major political party.

Then the board thought better of it. It restored Keller to the state’s third-grade history curriculum.

Clinton’s restoration isn’t yet final; the SBOE will decide the issue on Friday. I do hope the SBOE makes the right call.

For the ever-lovin’ life of me I don’t understand what the SBOE — an elected board of partisan politicians who set academic curriculum standards for the state’s public schools — is thinking.

It’s the decision to remove Clinton from study in our public classrooms that baffles me in the extreme. She is a contemporary figure who’s still active in the nation’s political discourse.

It looks as though the SBOE is going to restore the former first lady, former U.S. senator, former secretary of state and former 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee to our public school textbooks.

As the Texas Tribune reports: In response to a motion by board member Erika Beltran, D-Fort Worth, to reinsert Clinton into the standards, fellow board member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, referenced “tons of public comment” that he’d received before Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t agree, obviously, with her politics,” Rowley said. “I just think she qualifies as significant.”

Do ya think?

Someone’s politics shouldn’t matter one damn bit when determining one’s significance to state or national history. I’m sure Rowley knows that. And, yeah, she “qualifies as significant.”

Indeed, Clinton and Keller both are hugely significant historical figures. So help me, I don’t understand why the SBOE considered dropping them in the first place.

It now appears the SBOE has come to its senses. I also want to offer a good word to Marty Rowley for responding to the “tons of public comment” that stood up for Hillary Clinton’s role as a historic American public figure.

Get out and vote, you young people!

Rosemary Curts has pitched a positively capital idea dealing with increasing voter participation among young Americans.

Put early voting locations in our schools, writes the Dallas Independent School District math teacher in an op-ed written for the Dallas Morning News.

I am slapping myself on the side of my noggin over that one. Why didn’t I think of it?

Curts is one of four essayists whose ideas were published in the Sunday Morning News. I want to focus on her commentary because it makes so damn much sense.

She writes that government “must make it less of an ordeal to vote. In my experience, students are willing to vote — as long as they don’t have to go too far out of their way.”

Her idea is to install early voting stations in high schools. Hey, 18-year-old citizens can vote; many of them are still in high school. According to Curts, “Government classes could take a class trip downstairs to the polls, and because early voting stretches over days, students who forgot their voter identification cads one day could simply come back the next day.”

Dang, man! This is a good idea!

We have heard a lot of talk in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School about high school students being “energized” to get out the voter among their peers. They want to make a difference. Some of those students at Douglas High have become media stars, making public appearances around the country.

I am not yet certain their outrage over the deaths of their classmates this past Valentine’s Day is going to manifest itself in a surge of voter turnout among young Americans, who traditionally vote in puny numbers compared to their elders. These kids’ grandparents came of age in the 1960s and 1970s when they were rallying against an unpopular war in Vietnam and against government shenanigans relating to that scandal called “Watergate.”

I want to salute Rosemary Curts for putting forward an outstanding idea to make voting just a bit easier for today’s young people … not that it’s all that hard in the first place.

Still, whatever works.

Go for it, Jerry Hodge, in your effort to oust regents chair!

I hereby endorse former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge’s effort to oust the chairman of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents, Rick Francis.

Hodge is steamed over the way the Tech board treated former Chancellor Bob Duncan. I am, too. Angry, that is. Duncan got the shaft, the bum’s rush and was shown the door after what well might have been an illegal meeting of the Tech regents.

Regents took what was called an “informal vote” in executive sessions to deliver a no-confidence decision against Duncan, who then announced his “retirement” from a post he had held for the past six years.

State law prohibits governing bodies from voting in private, but the Tech regents did so anyway. Thus, we might have a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Law.

Hodge also is miffed that Francis might have sought to undermine Tech’s decision to build a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which has drawn full-throated support from the Amarillo City Council, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation and a number of corporate donors who have pledged money to help finance the project.

Committee targets Tech chairman

Will the campaign succeed? That remains a wide-open question. The committee that Hodge leads wants Gov. Greg Abbott to take action. Count me as one who doubts the governor will jump to the committee’s cadence.

Still, as a Texas resident with strong sentimental attachments to Amarillo, the Panhandle and a deep and abiding respect for the long public service career of the former Texas Tech chancellor, I want to endorse Jerry Hodge’s effort to raise as much of a ruckus as he can.

AISD boss to, um, retire?

If the recent “retirement” of Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan taught us anything, it is to be sure we don’t take their initial statements at face value.

Given that, the announcement today that Amarillo Independent School District Superintendent Dana West is retiring from a job she has held for three years makes me wonder: What’s the story behind the story?

Duncan announced his retirement at Tech, but then we learned that Tech regents had voted secretly to deliver him a vote of no confidence. Sure, he retired. However, it was under duress.

AISD officials are going to meet next week to decide whether to accept West’s retirement. Oh, and then trustees are going to consider appointing an interim superintendent.

Let me think. Is it normal for a school superintendent to “retire” at the start of a school year and then walk away?

I, um, don’t think so.

Hey, didn’t Hillary make ‘history’ in 2016?

I swear I thought Hillary Rodham Clinton made “history” in 2016 when she became the first female to be nominated for president of the United States by a major political party.

She ran a tough race against Donald J. Trump, but lost the Electoral College vote to the 45th president of the United States.

But wait! The Texas State Board of Education — a body of 15 elected politicians who represent separate districts around the state — wants to remove any historical reference to Clinton from public school textbooks.

It also wants to remove any mention of Helen Keller, the social activist who became the first blind and deaf woman to earn a college degree.

I’m scratching my head over this stuff.

Is this the wave of the future in Texas? Are we doing to deny teaching our students about historical figures because they, um, might be unpopular or controversial?

Hillary Clinton also served for eight years as first lady of the United States. The was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000 and re-elected in 2006. She then served as secretary of state during President Obama’s first term.

First lady, senator, secretary of state? Then she became a Democratic Party presidential nominee?

That’s unworthy of study in public school curricula?

The SBOE decision is a tentative one. It can reverse itself in November when it casts a final vote.

I hope it does and returns these women of enormous accomplishment to the curricula to be studied by our public school students.

SBOE switches gears: They were ‘heroes’ at the Alamo after all

The Texas State Board of Education came to its senses, with a little push from Gov. Greg Abbott.

The SBOE had voted tentatively to remove the term “hero” from its description of the men who died at the Alamo in 1836. Hey, we all know that they died heroically while defending the mission against superior Mexican armed forces.

SBOE reverses course

The board of education, though, almost knuckled under to some form of “political correctness” by deciding they weren’t heroes after all. Abbott said the SBOE should resist such PC activity. Late this week, the 15-member elected board reversed itself and said the heroes at the Alamo will be labeled as such in Texas public school curricula.

I’m not a native Texan, but I certainly accepted the idea long ago that the men who died in the Alamo battle were heroes. That’s how we were taught in Oregon when I was growing up and studying these historic events.

I’m glad that the SBOE has declared what the rest of us knew already: Those men were heroes.

Hey, Tech regents: Don’t let the vet school wither and die

Bob Duncan is now officially a former Texas Tech University system chancellor.

I remain saddened that he has called it a career. I remain angry that it happened in the manner that it did. I also remain intent on holding Texas Tech’s regents to account for the manner that they engineered Duncan’s departure from the chancellor’s office. Regents well might have violated Texas Open Meetings Act provisions by casting a “straw vote” in secret that produced a no-confidence decision regarding Duncan.

There’s a possible bit of major collateral damage coming from this tempest: the proposed Tech college of veterinary medicine that Tech wants to build in Amarillo.

A lengthy Texas Tribune story discusses how Duncan had been in deep doo-doo with regents for about a year prior to his abrupt resignation/retirement.

Whatever happens, it would be the height — or depth — of folly to let the vet school wither and die.

The interim chancellor, Tedd  Mitchell, said he supports the vet school in Amarillo. Regents also issued a statement in support of the vet school immediately after announcing Duncan’s retirement.

Lurking in the background is Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who opposes Tech’s effort to build a vet school anywhere, not just Amarillo.

Tribune lays out lengthy simmering of relations.

Amarillo’s Economic Development Corporation has ponied up $69 million to support Tech’s effort, which is a huge statement of public support. The vet school’s economic boon to the Panhandle would be enormous. It needs to proceed.

As for Duncan and his ongoing beef with regents, it strikes me as odd, given the former chancellor’s stellar reputation as a public servant, dating back to his years in the Texas Legislature, as a House member and senator.

My plea is a simple one: Don’t let the Tech vet school wither and die.

This petition is, um … tempting

I don’t sign petitions. A career in journalism precluded me from signing political documents that put my name into the public domain as a supporter or a foe of this or that politician or cause.

A petition, though, is making the rounds and it is providing a temptation I have to struggle to overcome.

It demands that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott remove five Texas Tech University System regents for their no-confidence vote against Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

The targets of the petition are Rick Francis, Ronnie Hammonds, Christopher Huckabee, Mickey Long and John Steinmetz. These are the five individuals whose no-confidence declaration essentially forced Duncan to announce his retirement effective Aug. 31.

As others have noted, Duncan is a serious Boy Scout who toiled for years in a profession known to produce more villains than heroes. He served in the Texas Legislature before becoming chancellor four years ago; he also worked as chief of staff for Sen. John Montford, another legislator of renown who became a Tech chancellor.

If there is a blemish on Duncan’s exemplary public service record, then someone will have to ask him to show to us, because no one has found one.

The planned Tech college of veterinary medicine appears to be at or near the center of this tempest. Tech wants to build a vet school in Amarillo, but is getting serious pushback from Texas A&M University, whose chancellor, John Sharp, has been leading the fight against Tech’s vet school plans. A&M operates the state’s only veterinary medicine school and doesn’t want Tech to meddle in what had been A&M’s exclusive educational domain.

So now Bob Duncan has been caught in that undertow. Shameful, I’m tellin’ ya.

Meanwhile, I am hereby renewing my demand for the regents who want Duncan out to explain in detail why they cast their vote to boot out the Boy Scout.

Why did you want Duncan to go, regents? Come clean!

I have to hand it to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey: The man knows how to lay political injustice out there in the great wide open for all to see.

Ramsey thinks Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan got hosed by the university’s board of regents. They voted — possibly illegally in an executive session — to issue a no-confidence verdict on Duncan.

What does Ramsey think of Duncan? Get a load of this excerpt from the Texas Tribune: He has been solid gold the whole way: As a legislative staffer, a lawyer working for state Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock; as a member of the Texas House and then a state senator; and finally, as the chancellor.

No scandals. No meaningful enemies (until now, anyway). His has been a stellar career. It’s what the optimists hope for and what the pessimists bet against. He’s straight out of a Frank Capra movie, or a civics textbook. Imagine a guy walking through a spaghetti factory in a white suit and leaving without a spot on him. Duncan is really something.

Which is why it’s a shame that the rest of the crabs pulled him back into the bucket. The regents at Texas Tech showed their mettle — demonstrating why they’re little fish and not big fish — when a more brazen academic institution bellowed about their plans to launch a veterinary school in the Panhandle. Texas A&M University, headed by former legislator, railroad commissioner and comptroller John Sharp, believes one vet school is enough.

Ramsey thinks that someone connected to the A&M System got to Gov. Greg Abbott, who might have told the Tech regents — who are appointed by the governor — to reel Duncan in.

What is galling to me is that regents haven’t yet given a hint of detail as to why they want Duncan to leave the post he has held for the past four years. By most observers’ reckoning, he was doing a bang-up job as the system’s chief administrator.

Regents have sought to cover their backsides by declaring their continued support for the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s great!

Read Ramsey’s excellent analysis here.

First things first. They need to explain to Tech’s constituents why they have pushed a “good guy,” as Ramsey described Duncan, over the proverbial cliff.