The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan 12, 2010

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THE BIG CONVERSATION

Just because the Republican debates will make for good television, don’t forget the joys of a live show. Today, the State Board of Education is coming to town.

Couched between graduation requirements and investment strategy, the fireball will be the social studies curriculum (and the public testimony around it).

It's largely a debate over which historical figures to include — and the racial and ethnic backgrounds of those figures. Include more minorities and civil rights figures or clamp down on stories about labor organizing and subversion? As with most SBOE fights, the split comes not down party lines but instead between the ultra-conservative Republicans and everyone else. Board member Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, will likely make or break the decisions, as he did during the evolution debates last year.

Over the last year, a curriculum committee, appointed by SBOE members, has met to debate what (and who) should be included — or not. Bill Ames, a far right activist, has already written extensively on the need to present a positive view of American history to children, one that includes few or no stories of negative minority treatment. Expect some sparks when he gets to the microphone this week.

It won’t be the first time. At the state board's November meeting, Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso, lobbied the board for more Hispanic representation in textbooks and found herself in a heated exchange with board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford.

"You are asking to include different people just because they are Latino," Hardy said at the time.

This time, the fight should be even more dramatic.

Many of the ultra-conservatives will soon face tough primary fights from moderate Republicans. Former chair Don McLeroy, R-Bryan and member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, both members of the ruling conservative bloc, have faced criticism from challengers for politicizing the board. This week will likely put such politics on full display.

Having already succeeded in rewriting math, science and language arts standards to be more in-line with the conservative point of view,  the social studies curriculum is the next big step for social conservatives in changing the educational landscape.

Texas Freedom Network, a long-time foe of State Board social conservatives, will hold a press conference this morning in preparation for the debacle, while the list for public testimony continues to balloon.

Bring popcorn.

CULLED

• Truckin'. The U.S. and Mexico haved opened the first border bridge in ten years.The Anzalduas bridge built on the U.S. side with a partnership between the cities of McAllen, Mission and Hidalgo, will operate daily until 10 p.m. McAllen is already pushing to allow cargo traffic.

Gary Johnson, 59, is scheduled to be executed today. He was convicted of killing two men when they interrupted his attempted burglary and was sentenced in 1988. Johnson's lawyers have argued that he is too ill to be killed.

• He's here, he's there, he's everywhere. At least in parts of South Texas. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White has a busy day — breakfast in Roma before hitting Zapata, Hebronville and Laredo. 

• Looking for job security? Try running for county commissioner in Harris County, where no incumbent has lost since 1974. It probably helps that they themselves draw the district maps and have seven-figure campaign accounts.

“You want to get the folks inside the tent, as opposed to outside the tent, urinating relative to the tent.” — Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on including Tea Party activists in the Republican party.

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