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The Brief: Aug. 26, 2013

A fiery debate on Saturday laid bare the enduring fight over the CSCOPE curriculum system.

State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, debate CSCOPE at the University of Texas at Tyler on Aug. 24, 2013

The Big Conversation

A fiery debate on Saturday laid bare the enduring fight over the CSCOPE curriculum system.

In front of a lively crowd at the University of Texas at Tyler, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, squared off over CSCOPE, a widely used school lesson plan system that has come under fire from conservative grassroots activists and has sparked a months-long fight over its elimination. 

Patrick, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a leader of the push to eliminate the system, reiterated activists' concerns that the lessons contain liberal and anti-American biases. But as the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports, Patrick focused his criticism on the lack of transparency at the state education centers that produce the lessons.

"The thing that we are missing here is that there seems to be this fight and sometimes attack against parents who have a right to ask a question," he said. "I don't understand this 'drink the Kool-Aid' CSCOPE mentality that we don't care if there is anything wrong with CSCOPE — we just want our CSCOPE."

Ratliff, who agreed to the debate after Patrick issued a challenge to defenders of the lessons, voiced the concerns of many small, mostly rural schools that rely on CSCOPE.

"Local districts ought to be able to make that decision for themselves, not have you make it for them," Ratliff told Patrick.

Though Patrick denied that the debate was staged for political purposes, Ratliff suggested that Patrick was using the issue to one-up Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whom he's trying to unseat.

"What this has become is a tug-of-war between two guys who want to be lieutenant governor, and they are using public schools as the rope," Ratliff said. "And I'm tired of them being the rope."

Read the full recap of the debate here.


•    Cruz encounters supporters, detractors in New Hampshire (The Dallas Morning News): "Not many New Hampshire voters know Ted Cruz yet. But as he introduced himself Friday in the state that casts the first primary ballots of 2016, this much was clear: He is already divisive. For every Republican who welcomes his confrontational style, there’s another who views him as a shrill extremist who’d do better using his many gifts to forge consensus than to treat compromise-minded Republicans as the enemy. 'I expected so much more from him,' said Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP. 'Somebody like him could be leading the Republican Party toward a future, and instead … he’s been pandering. He’s been pandering to the basest impulses of the base.'"

•    A combative Nixon blasts Texas governor ahead of Missouri trip (PoliticMo): "Gov. Jay Nixon told a St. Louis radio station that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has 'crossed a line' with a set of television and radio ads criticizing Missouri’s business climate ahead of a trip to the state later this week. Speaking with KTRS, a station that publicly pulled Perry’s ads which were critical of the Missouri Democrat’s veto of income tax legislation and urged Missouri businesses to move to Texas, Nixon said he felt Perry’s ad was 'distasteful' and 'flat-out wrong.' 'I recommend when he comes to Missouri next week to be with the Missouri state chamber, that he go to a store and buy something, because he’ll notice it is cheaper in Missouri because we have a lower sales tax rate; maybe he ought to look at buying a house, because our property taxes are way lower than they are in Texas; and he won’t have any trouble getting someone who can help him add up the numbers because our kids ACT scores are way higher than the kids in Texas,' Nixon said."

•    Dewhurst defends phone call to Allen police (WFAA): "Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is speaking out about the August 3 phone call he made to the Allen Police Department. He made the call on behalf of his nephew's wife, Ellen Bevers, who police had arrested for allegedly stealing $53 worth of groceries. … 'How would you feel if you had two family members call and they were so distraught that they could barely talk?' Dewhurst said after speaking at the Texas Conservative Leadership Symposium in Georgetown on Saturday. 'I simply wanted to know what the procedures were, what could be done, if anything.'"

•    TxDOT begs pardon, clarifies turnback plan (Houston Chronicle): "Texas transportation officials Friday clarified a proposed turnover of state road maintenance to local governments, promising Houston-area leaders the state won't foist unwanted work and expense on cities and counties. 'The department may not have explained the program as well as we needed to,' said Marc Williams, director of planning for the Texas Department of Transportation. Williams acknowledged the department 'struck a nerve' when the agency's executive director, Phil Wilson, sent a letter to many mayors and county judges saying transportation officials were considering ceding control of 1,897 miles of state-maintained roads."

Quote to Note: "It is likely that I am going to stay out of incumbent primaries across the country, either supporting incumbents or opposing incumbents." — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, asked on Friday whether he would endorse fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn for re-election in 2014


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