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Texas school board breaks from national organization

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–The Texas Board of Education has become the first in the nation to sever ties with the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

The Texas board’s exit from NASBE is in reaction to policies which conservatives said reflect a socially liberal agenda on the part of the nation’s primary professional association for state education boards.

In a 10-5 vote along party lines, the Republican majority voted Nov. 19 to pull the board’s $40,000 in annual dues to NASBE. Now, the 15 members may attend educational meetings of their choosing, including NASBE, said board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, who attended the 2005 NASBE meeting and came away convinced the group doesn’t represent the Texas school board or Texas educators.

“We’re paying $40,000 a year to this organization and not getting anything back for it,” Leo, who helped garner the votes to sever ties, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, describing the NASBE as “an organization in which we do not have influence or representation.”

Leo said she and other conservative board members repeatedly were passed over for spots on the national organization’s subcommittees because of what she suspects are ideological differences.

“For me and other conservatives on the board, it was more of the same,” said Leo, a member of an Assembly of God church in the Houston suburb of Spring. “We continued to receive their publications advocating left-leaning positions,” including a NASBE magazine that Leo said proposed that the phrase “separation of church and state” stems from the Bill of Rights.

The last straw for her, she said, was the manner in which the focal issue for this year’s NASBE meeting — anti-bullying — was handled.

Leo said the anti-bullying sessions seemed to advocate a special-victim category for homosexuals. The sessions, led and funded by the United States Centers for Disease Control, included materials from the Seattle-based Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) Youth Program. Meanwhile, “groups who oppose the views of GLBTQ were not given the same opportunities to present their information,” Leo charged.

When homosexuality was discussed in PowerPoint presentations, Leo said, the overhead materials never matched what participants were given. “They obviously did not want us to have a copy of what they were showing,” she said.

Often the content of such discussions is couched in the language of “tolerance” and “diversity” but involves a wider agenda of promoting the affirmation of homosexuality, she said.

The break from NASBE will not affect the Texas school board or local school districts, Leo said, and individual state board members may attend any organization’s meetings if they choose.

“Texas doesn’t need NASBE. That’s really the bottom line here,” Leo said. “We really function independently anyway. We pay them to develop useful resources, and we are not getting what we pay for.”

State school boards pay NASBE membership dues proportionate to their student populations, so NASBE receives larger funding from big states such as Texas and California.

NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn told the San Antonio Express-News, “It’s a shame we’re losing Texas. I think we’re being misrepresented as a liberal-leaning organization. The majority of our members are Republicans.”

The Seattle GLBTQ’s website describes the group’s constituency as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or questioning youth between the ages of 14-22 and those who work with this population (school personnel, counselors, foster parents, faith communities, etc).”

The group also sponsors a Safe Schools Coalition, the website states, which “supports the empowerment and leadership of GLBTQ youth and their allies in undoing oppression to create a more peaceful and just world.”
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, on the Web at www.sbtexas.com.

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