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Online petition seeks to impeach Ratliff

By Glenn Evans
Aug. 15, 2013 at 10 p.m.

A petition seeking to impeach the Republican State Board of Education member from Northeast Texas appeared online earlier this week.

Uploaded by a conservative, grass-roots organization called, Voices Empower, the petition cites SBOE trustee Thomas Ratliff's status as a lobbyist as the reason to impeach the elected official.

However, it is the moderate Republican's ongoing defense of the controversial curriculum guide, CSCOPE, that's driving the online effort.

"They've been clamoring about this for four years," Ratliff said of the conflict-of-interest accusation, which the second-term official asked the Texas Attorney General to vet before his first term started in 2010. "Ever since I took the oath of office, they've been trying to get rid of me."

The two issues of CSCOPE and Ratliff's lobbying job overlap, Voices Empower leader Alice Linahan said Thursday. Voices Empower uploaded the impeachment petition Monday or Tuesday, she said.

"Thomas Ratliff's ties to Microsoft are an issue, especially when you look at what's going on at the national level with Common Core," Linahan said Thursday. "My question to him would be, 'Are you a lobbyist?' Yes. 'Are you on the Permanent School Fund committee?' Yes. So, you're on the inside of the ball game of influencing education. Whether (your client) Microsoft asked you or not, you know what's going on at Microsoft. You know what's going on with the Permanent School Fund - you have an influence there."

That phrase, Common Core, is tied to national standards the state of Texas has rejected. But, it is similar-sounding to the General Education Core Curriculum which Texas public schools do follow. The state Core Curriculum seeks to ensure students taking the same required courses are exposed to the same learning regardless of which district they attend.

Ratliff, of Mount Pleasant, has been a thorn in the side of CSCOPE opponents most recently, and far-right conservatives since taking office. He represents 31 Northeast Texas counties on the elected panel that oversees textbook selection and guides the massive Permanent School Fund. The fund contributed $1.9 billion to public education in Texas last year.

Ratliff, whose senator father, Bill Ratliff, faced his share of attacks from the far right as a moderate Republican, characterized the online petition as an avenue chosen by opponents whose attacks in the legal arena already failed.

"They don't have the facts on their side," he said. "So, like bullies, they think the more they bang their hand on the table and the louder they scream, you'll back down. All they are doing is making people realize what this is all about. And it's not about educating kids."

Yes it is, Linahan said.

"The whole concept of CSCOPE is the scope and sequence, the assessments, the lessons," she said. "That is all online. If my children have a lesson on the Declaration of Independence and the (U.S.) Constitution with a text book, and they bring it home, I am a part of that. This CSCOPE, how it was set up initially, parents were not given access to it and did not know what those lessons were. That puts a dividing line between my children and me."

Linahan also said teachers dislike CSCOPE but don't publicly oppose it because their superintendent bosses parlay the good will their support creates into post-retirement careers as high-paid consultants.

She also said Texas' school children's personal data are being mined via the electronic notepads on which they work CSCOPE exercises.

"I want my kids to go to school and learn reading, writing, math and English," she said. "When they come home with textbooks, I can help them."

Linahan said children do need to learn computer skills, noting her own work includes extensive use of social media.

"I get it," she said. "Children have to be computer literate."

Ratliff will debate CSCOPE foe Texas Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in Tyler on Aug. 24. The moderated debate will be at the University of Texas at Tyler's Ornelas Center on Old Omen Road.

"We're going to have a full-blown, live debate," he said. "I'm hoping it's a factual, logical, detailed policy discussion. And hopefully we can get past the sound bytes from people to run in a campaign."

Ratliff said feedback from schools in his District 9 supports the CSCOPE curriculum. He also noted he received the most votes of any State Board of Education candidate in the last election.

"Clearly, my district thinks I'm doing OK," he said.



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