Written by Phil Cerroni
By Will Jukes
The Coppell Republican Women's Club hosted State Representative Bennet Ratliff and Board of Education member Pat Hardy for a meet-and-greet and talk on education and state government. It was a rare opportunity for constituents to hear and engage with representatives at a higher level. The club, which formed in October, hopes to keep voters informed and involved with precisely this kind of high profile engagement.
“I feel our mission is to educate our voters, inform them, and inspire them to get out and really be able to talk to others about what's going on,” said Kit Whitehill, President of the Coppell Republican Women's club. “My husband ran for the Court of Appeals this last election. I had never been involved in politics and had been to lots of meetings and saw how important it is to not just vote, but to really be informed.”
The meeting also gave Pat Hardy, the State Board of Education representative for District 11, a chance to connect with a new element of her constituency. As a result of a redistricting, District 11 now represents both Irving and Coppell.
“Until November, this wasn't in my district,” Hardy said.
Hardy gave a talk covering not only the basic jurisdiction of the State Board of Education (which includes funding, curriculum formation and charter school oversight), but also touched on issues concerning current state policy on education. She devoted particular attention to quelling fears about C-SCOPE, a recently adopted curriculum standard that has been the subject of much media attention.
“C-SCOPE is a curriculum model that's being promoted by the regional service centers, and it's the right of each school district to choose to participate in this system, but I thought I would explain to them what's involved and how people have pulled pieces out of that to make it sound very radical, when in fact, it's not very radical,” Hardy said. “Some of the parents feel like the lessons are radical and teach Communist ideas, but I happen to be very familiar with it, and I don't think it's that at all.”
Despite this, many parents had other concerns. In response to a question about the curriculum's lack of transparency - it isn't available for review online - Hardy replied that the curriculum standards were available for public viewing at the district office, and also defended the policy on the basis of copyright law.
“It's a copyright issue. We paid for that, and if we put it up online then anyone can use it. But it is available for public viewing,” Hardy said.
She also devoted a portion of the meeting to dispelling myths about Texas education, pointing out that Texas was first in science education among minorities and that the state's model works.
Bennet Ratliff, the representative for state district 115, commented on House Bill 5.
“House Bill 5 is taking a fresh look at all the high stakes testing criteria that were put in place a year ago. We've heard a lot back from parents and teachers and administrators and the general public that we're over-testing our kids,” Ratliff said. “Fifteen tests to get out of high school is too much, and there are a lot of bills that are being considered to try and reduce that to a reasonable number and make sure that there's accountability for our taxpayers, but yet, provide flexibility for our kids without putting them through an entire regiment of tests.” Ratliff hopes to reform Texas education and move it in a direction that offers more ways for students to graduate.