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U-46 Board split votes ratify curriculum, audit

By Seth Hancock
  If the textbooks being used to teach children in School District U-46 are full of factual errors and one-sided lessons, is that alright?
  It appears to be alright to the majority of the Board of Education which voted 5-2 in favor of curriculum for six high school social studies electives despite board member Jeanette Ward finding what she called “an overarching and pervasive politically left bias” in the primary resources selected, totaling over $350,000, at its meeting on Monday, April 25.
  Ward and Cody Holt were the no votes on the proposal, and those supporting it did not refute Ward’s claims and the litany of examples of bias she found in the resources.
  “There are numerous issues in the proposed resources, including an overarching and pervasive politically left bias, a love-affair with Karl Marx, factual inaccuracies about the history of Islam and Israel, global warming pseudo-science without opposing viewpoint except in World Geography which I commend them for, anti-American bias, anti-traditional family bias and profound moral relativism, among other issues,” Ward said who went through specific examples and also wrote a blog post listing more which can be accessed at her public Facebook page: Jeanette Ward, U-46 School Board Member.
  During public comments, which came before the vote, district resident Tina Rio agreed with Ward’s dissent and said that although her children are grown she is concerned for the rest of the students in the district.
  “We want to teach our kids to think and not just learn one side of these arguments,” said Rio who added that the process in selecting resources seemed to give little time for the board to review.
  Larry Pahl, a Bartlett High School social studies teacher, supported the resources, specifically the World History textbook (Pearson’s World History; $70,496), but thanked Ward for doing her job as a board member. All six resources were approved under one proposal.
  “You did what every board member should do, you’re researching these books,” Pahl said. “That’s what you owe to the people who elected you.”
  However, Pahl said the World History textbook is a “remarkable resource” in terms of graphs and maps, and that the religious bias Ward found in that book would not be covered in the World History course.
  The Examiner previously reported that the World History book received an unacceptable grade from the Truth in Texas Textbook (TTT) review, but Pahl noted the dialogue between Pearson and the “Conservative Texas Christian group” led to the majority of the problems being changed. Ward said she “did see the dialogue,” but the pieces not changed were still unacceptable as the text is heavily pro-Islam and favors Palestine over Israel.
  Suzanne Johnson, assistant superintendent, said before the board’s discussion that there was a “strenuous vetting process” and that the resources are “just a part of the curriculum.” She said an advisory committee makes recommendations to an instructional council made up of teachers, administrators and community members. There are currently two community member on the council.
  Board member Sue Kerr said “I think we can all find things we don’t like in the textbooks” and that “we may interpret things differently.” She argued that Ward’s claim of “a love-affair with Karl Marx” in the Sociology textbooks (Pearson’s Sociology: A Down-To-Earth Approach; $102,099) was interpreted wrong.
  “I don’t think this book is pushing Marx. I think it’s trying to get his theory out,” said Kerr who did not cite examples of how it was merely historical and not biased.
  Ward did cite specific examples of the book being biased towards Marxism, one from the text being: “When Marx made his observations, capitalism was in its infancy and workers were at the mercy of their employers…Marx’s analysis reminds us that [worker benefits] came not from generous hearts but from workers forcing concessions by their employers.”
  Board member Phil Costello voted for the proposal saying “I will always defer to the teachers on what will be taught.”
  Board member Traci Ellis claimed Ward was attempting to limit “academic freedom” and pushing for censorship.
  “We can try to censor these materials, but [teachers] have such wide latitude” to use any materials they want in the classroom Ellis said.
  However, if the resources are one-sided it would appear that the censorship is occurring in the resources. Ward said: “I’d like it known that I am not advocating censorship. I certainly do not advocate censorship. I am suggesting that both sides be presented, and these textbooks do not present both sides. They have a predominant leaning.”
  Ward said that “ideas have consequences” and “those who lived under Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung, or the new favorite among uninformed hipsters, Che Guevara, know this. Since ideas matter, curriculum matters. It matters what textbooks say and what children are taught.”
  “Parents and citizens have a right and a duty to know what is planned for instruction,” said Ward who added that “a wider audience” should be used in the process and they should be given more “time to appropriately review and give feedback to the board on the curriculum.”
  Also voted on that evening with a split vote, 4-3 in favor, was a proposal for the District Management Council (DMC), which already received $175,000 from U-46 taxpayers to help develop the strategic plan, to do a scheduling audit for special education in U-46 at a cost of $217,500 over three years. Costello, Holt and Ward voted no on the proposal that was first presented on March 21.
  DMC claimed cost savings would come from the audit, but at the March 21 meeting, its CEO John Kim gave theoretical examples of how the audit can cut costs without giving examples of how it had done so in other districts.
  Kerr said she was initially “ambivalent” about it and through research found “both good and bad” reviews of DMC, but she is “satisfied now with… the answers (DMC) gave to my questions” and because the district was not seeking the additional $20,000 a year for DMC to create schedules after the audit she favored it.
  Costello, who said he was not looking for hypothetical savings, responded: “I guess I saw the answers too and I was not as impressed. I still fail to see the substance behind some of their cost savings.”
  Ward agreed with Costello saying the answer was “vague” on how DMC can cut costs, but Ellis said: “They haven’t come in to do the audit yet so to be able to say what they are going to do when they don’t know what they are going to find yet… I think that that’s an unfair request to make of them.”
  Later, Ward noted that she understood they can’t give specifics to U-46 without the audit done first but that no specifics from other districts were given.
  In answering a question from Holt, U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said he requested the audit the night of March 21 when Kim was there to guide the board on the strategic plan metrics and that “it’s not just about cost savings but how do we best serve the needs of all kids.”
  “I think that we have great teachers who would be able to provide that same insight, and I would look to them first before we go outside,” Costello said.
  The board unanimously approved, on April 25, $7.2 million in itemized bills as well as $2.4 million in expenditures under contract and bid proposals.



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