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In Search of Economic Education
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Press Release

In Search of Economic Education

Recently, CSE has become engaged in a debate over the content of social studies textbooks in Texas. Language has become shrill, with our opponents accusing CSE of being “right wing book burners” seeking to censor teachers and students. In reality, CSE has raised legitimate concerns about the portrayal of various economic systems. For example, one textbook notes, "In a communist system, the central government owns all property, such as farms and factories, for the benefit of its citizens." The tragic history of the last century suggests that centrally planned economies fared very poorly in terms of providing benefits to their citizens. The Soviet Union ultimately collapsed, China quietly began a policy of dismantling its state-run enterprises, and Cuba is hardly a worker’s paradise.

08/13/2002
Tougher Standards, Tighter Security, Later Start for Texas Students
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Tougher Standards, Tighter Security, Later Start for Texas Students

BY Connie Mabin

For Texas youths counting down the days before they head back to school this month, there's some good news: a longer summer vacation. Most of Texas' 1,040 districts will start school the week of Aug. 21, a date specified by a new law effective this year. At least 80 districts received state permission to begin school earlier, including Keller Independent School District, which opened its doors the earliest on Aug. 5. But regardless of the date, when school bells ring in the new year, Texas' 4.1 million public school students will meet a state education system that is getting harder. A lot harder. The system will use a more difficult standardized test, higher attendance standards and other factors to rate schools, educators and students. "Next year, when we introduce the more rigorous Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which will cover more grades and subjects, it is likely that we will see drop in passing rates," acknowledges Education Commissioner Felipe Alanis. Alanis says he believes the state is up for the challenge. Texas schools will grow by an estimated 70,000 students this year, enough youngsters to create a school district about the size of the 126-school Fort Worth system. At the same time, the state continues to battle a teacher and principal shortage that teachers' groups blame on low pay and discipline challenges. The State Board for Educator Certification estimates a teacher shortage of between 37,000 and 40,000. Last school year, an estimated 42,808 teachers taught subjects for which they were not trained for at least half of their work day, the board estimates. Earlier this month, two of the state's largest teachers organizations joined forces to ask for a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise. The request was well-received by some, like gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez and state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, two Democrats who promise to lead the fight for better pay for Texas teachers who earn an average of $38,359 a year. The conservative Citizens for a Sound Economy, on the other hand, called the proposal "outrageous" and said it was unrealistic in light of a tight budget. The proposed hike for Texas' 275,000 public school teachers would cost $2.5 billion over the next two years, about 3 percent of the $114 billion budget. The Texas State Teachers Association and Texas Federation of Teachers say boosting state educators to the national pay average will help students do well as the system gets tougher. And, they say, it will help with the teacher shortage. "We have 600,000 certified teachers in Texas. We just have to convince them to come back to the classroom," said Donna New Haschke, TSTA president. Some districts, like the Dallas Independent School District, have made a dent in their vacancies by raising salaries and recruiting out of state. DISD offers starting teachers $37,000, among the highest beginning salaries in the state, along with signing bonuses and other incentives such as laptop computers. Out of 10,000 positions, less than 100 are unfilled going into this school year, said spokesman Don Claxton. "The word is getting out that if you want to think about teaching you should think about Dallas ISD," Claxton said. "Without good teachers you won't have good students, and we are out to get the best teachers in the state and in the country." Also beginning this school year, no longer will third-graders be advanced to the fourth grade if they are not academically ready and fail the state-mandated test. The ban on so-called social promotion is another major change to the accountability system. Texas schools are undergoing a number of safety upgrades since last September's terrorist attacks. Safety and emergency response plans have been revamped and teachers and other employees will be trained to deal with potential acts of terrorism. Gene Acuna, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, said training also will prepare school officials to deal with natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes or floods. The Texas Education Agency is installing a $175,000 Statewide Education Notification System, allowing state officials to send emergency messages to school districts through e-mail, phones, pagers and fax machines. "The Sept. 11 tragedy and the aftermath of that day convinced us that we need to be able to reach all 1,200 school districts and charter schools in an instant," said Ron McMichael, the state's deputy education commissioner.

08/13/2002
Searching for A Legislative Compass
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Press Release

Searching for A Legislative Compass

This Week Since both the House and Senate are enjoying August recess, there is no activity in either house. The White House also is on what the White House describes as a “working vacation” at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

08/12/2002
CSE Hosts Florida’s Largest Gathering of Conservative Activists this Year
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Press Release

CSE Hosts Florida’s Largest Gathering of Conservative Activists this Year

Orlando, FL – Activists demonstrated their resolve in the fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom during Citizens for A Sound Economy’s (CSE) first ever Liberty Tree Convention when, working with staff, they devised a strategy that will further CSE’s efforts in the state and allow them to have a greater impact on public policy.

08/12/2002
Campbell v. State Farm
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Press Release

Campbell v. State Farm

QUESTION PRESENTED The amici curiae will address the following question: Whether in relying on the probability that State Farm would escape liability for underpayment of first-party claims — rather than the probability that State Farm would escape liability for third-party bad faith — the Utah Supreme Court misapplied deterrence theory and thereby mistakenly approved an irrational and excessive punitive damages jud gment. Click here for the complete amicus brief in PDF format.

08/10/2002
Don't Skip the Hard Lessons of Sept. 11th
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Don't Skip the Hard Lessons of Sept. 11th

BY Jonathan Zimmerman

Patriotism, Samuel Johnson once warned, is often the last refuge of a scoundrel. As our public schools prepare to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, though, we might wish to add another danger to Johnson's list: psychologism. "Psychologism" reduces every social and political issue to a question of personal health and well-being. Whereas the patriot sees treason and subversion around every corner, the psychologist worries about trauma and self-esteem. Across the country, more than 1,000 high schools have announced plans to commemorate the 9/11 attacks with a special five-day curriculum about terrorism and global affairs. But here in New York, the main target of the attacks, students won't be learning much of anything. After consulting with child psychologists, city school officials have decided to downplay the Sept. 11 anniversary. "There are students here who witnessed tremendous trauma, not just on television or in ripples, but by seeing what happened or facing their own personal losses," explained Francine Goldstein, chief executive of school support services for the city's Board of Education. "All of this can drag up some very difficult symbolism for both the children and the staff." Of course it can. But the horror of the tragedy should not provide an excuse for eschewing a discussion of it. In the guise of protecting students, we will forfeit an enormous opportunity to teach them. For example, how many students know that the United States established a "citizens' auxiliary" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in World War One? More than a quarter of a million people joined the American Protective League, spying on their neighbors and co-workers in the hunt for German infiltrators and sympathizers. League members opened other people's mail, and intercepted their telegrams - all with the government's sanction. How does this effort compare to Attorney General John Ashcroft's proposed "TIPS" program, which would enlist millions of civilians as government spies? Should the World War I precedent make us wary of his proposal? Supportive of it? Why? How can we guard against terrorism but still protect our civil liberties? In previous national crises, patriotic propaganda blocked any such analysis from America's classrooms. During World War I, for example, the federal government distributed lesson plans illustrating the "democratic" virtues of our British and French allies and the "autocratic" nature of our German foes. (One lesson used the example of French patriot Joan of Arc - until somebody realized that she had been burned at the stake by England.) In the 1950s, schools purged textbooks of material about American poverty and racism. If students learned of their own country's problems, the argument went, they might start to sympathize with its Cold War foe: the Soviet Union. "There should be a constructive, positive approach," explained a patriotic group in California, "and emphasis should be placed on the 'good things' of American life." Even now, self-appointed patriotic organizations impose a cheery gloss upon the nation's textbooks. For example, in Texas, right-wing activists in the Texas chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy work assiduously to remove any passages that might sully America's pristine image. Here in New York, by contrast, the soft glove of liberal psychology - not the hard fist of conservative patriotism - constrains what our children learn. Lest any racial or ethnic group suffer a deficit of "self-esteem," textbooks distort or simply falsify American history. As school officials admitted earlier this year, even standardized examinations have removed ethnic referents like "black" or "Jewish" - because such terms might supposedly harm the delicate minds of young test-takers. To be sure, millions have been affected in some manner by racial or ethnic prejudice. Likewise, every person in New York was probably traumatized - in one way or another - by the attacks of Sept. 11. But the main job of our public schools is to make people into good citizens, not to make them feel good. Schools must give children the knowledge, skill, and interest to participate in complicated public questions - like the balance between individual freedom and collective security. Which brings us back to John Ashcroft and "TIPS." No matter what we think of citizen spies, let's all keep a close eye on our schools as the Sept. 11 anniversary draws near. Let's make sure our students use this day to learn about the tragedy and - especially - about our nation's response to it. And let's resist the twin perils of patriotism and psychologism, which will only defer the critical discussion that we need.

08/08/2002
Art Curtis is the CSE Activist of the Month!
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Press Release

Art Curtis is the CSE Activist of the Month!

August’s CSE Activist of the Month is Art Curtis of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a part-time student, soldier, and family man who still finds time to take part in the political process and speak-out on important issues that impact the greater freedom and liberty of all Americans.

08/07/2002
The Calm Before the Storm?
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Press Release

The Calm Before the Storm?

The President is working from home this month. Congress has left town until after Labor Day. This August, like most Augusts, will be a slow month in Washington. But watch out for a wild ride this fall.

08/07/2002
It's the Tax Code, Stupid
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Press Release

It's the Tax Code, Stupid

Riding high on the nation’s moral indignation over corporate malfeasance, politicians have turned to bullying corporations and interfering with perfectly legal business decisions. The coming elections have fueled the anti-corporate rhetoric as politicians attempt to outdo one another with “get tough on corporate America” proposals that ignore underlying economic problems in a quixotic search for a government quick fix to boost stock prices. While new mandates will do little to address an overvalued stock market or bring more foreign investors into the market, they can hamper the ability of American companies to compete in a global market.

08/07/2002
Political Inexperience, Not Greed Caused Energy Traders’ Demise
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Press Release

Political Inexperience, Not Greed Caused Energy Traders’ Demise

By the time voters go to the polls in November, two to three energy companies could join Enron in bankruptcy. With the public furor over declining stocks and corporate greed already at a high pitch, these new failures could bring about a new round of re-regulation to the energy sector.

08/07/2002

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