Immigrants win Pennsylvania case: Hazleton’s anti-immigrant law struck down

July 26, 2007

News from the Pennsylvania ACLU (watch the right wing blogs explode, especially in Texas when they figure out the Farmers Branch ordinance is based on Hazleton’s ordinance, and that the judge in Pennsylvania used language similar to the TRO language used by the judge in Texas looking at the Farmers Branch ordinance) (text of press release and background from Pennsylvania ACLU):

Judge’s Decision Upholds Fair Treatment for All

“The genius of our Constitution is that it provides rights even to those who evoke the least sympathy from the general public. In that way, all in this nation can be confident of equal justice under its laws.” – Judge Munley’s Lozano v. Hazleton decision, pp. 188-189

In the first trial decision of its kind, a federal court has declared unconstitutional a local ordinance that sought to punish landlords and employers for doing business with undocumented immigrants. The landmark decision in the closely-watched challenge to Hazleton’s anti-immigrant ordinance held that the ordinance cannot be enforced.

ACLU Hazleton logo

“We are grateful the court recognized that municipal laws like those in Hazleton are unconstitutional. The trial record showed that these ordinances are based on propaganda and deception,” said Vic Walczak, Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and a lead attorney in the case. “Hazleton-type laws are designed to make life miserable for millions of immigrants. They promote distrust of all foreigners, including those here legally, and fuel xenophobia and discrimination, especially against Latinos.”

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Alfred Hitchcock? In Austin?

July 26, 2007

It’s a twist on the story the Mormons in Utah have a monument to — in the Mormon version, it was birds that saved them from the crickets.

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Textbook critic Norma Gabler, 84

July 26, 2007

Appropriate to a discussion of textbook approvals and the Texas State Board of Education comes this news: Norma Gabler died in Phoenix, Sunday. She was 84.

Norma and her husband Mel started the practice of nit-picking textbooks during the approval process, always pushing to get a Christian view inserted into books, especially science and history books. Eventually they founded a non-profit group to criticize texts, Education Research Associates, based in Longview, Texas. Despite the deaths of both Gablers, the non-profit will continue.

Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science alerted me in an e-mail. The Longview News-Journal carried the news of Mrs. Gabler’s death:

The 84-year-old Longview resident died Sunday in Phoenix, Ariz., after serving for decades as the public face of an effort to bolster both accuracy and conservative beliefs in public school textbooks. She and her husband, Mel, who died in 2004, began their work in 1961 in Hawkins after finding errors in a textbook of one of their sons.

They became nationally famous, and a Rice University professor who was head of the Texas Council for Science Education in 1982 said the Gablers were “the most effective textbook censors in the country.”

They founded the Longview-based nonprofit organization Educational Research Analysts, which describes itself as a conservative Christian organization.

Educational Research Analysts is dedicated to finding factual errors in textbooks, as well as to pointing out “censorship of conservative political or social views,” said Neal Frey, president of the organization who worked with the Gablers since 1982. The group’s work will continue, he said.

The Gablers’ work, he said, had national impact because Texas is such a large buyer of textbooks; what is approved here is often repeated nationally by publishers.

Update, August 2, 2007: Afarensis points us to NPR, who seem to speak admiringly of the dead. Awfully polite of them to do so, unless it’s getting in the way of accuracy.


Condolences pour in: New chair at Texas State Board of Education

July 26, 2007

Some people would say the Texas State Board of Education is “troubled,” or maybe even (that journalistic clichéd kiss of death) “besieged.

The agency it oversees, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), has a director whose term is expired, the agency has taken hits from almost every daily newspaper in Texas for cheating scandals on the state achievement tests which have been roundly ignored by the agency. The legislature voted to eliminate the Board’s showpiece tests, substituting tests that will have TEA personnel scrambling to make ready, and the legislators didn’t send enough money to buy all the textbooks the agency is obligated to purchase under the Texas Constitution. Meanwhile, Texas kids fall farther behind kids in other states. One member of the board is on the lam after refusing to answer a subpoena to a grand jury investigating whether he actually resides in the district he represents as required by law (he keeps a cot near his office in the district, but spends most time at his farm, outside his district — the farm where he claims residency for homestead purposes under Texas property tax law). Statistics out last week show Texas leads the nation in pregnancies among kids of school age, and a study shows that abstinence-only programs, pushed by TEA, are to blame for high out-of-wedlock-teen pregnancy rates.

But that’s just “business as usual” for the top education agency in Texas for most of the last decade or so. Many Texans might have been disappointed, but none were surprised when Gov. Rick Perry appointed Bryan, Texas, dentist Don McLeroy to be chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).

McLeroy’s politics sometimes appear to the right of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s education policies for the state of Georgia in 1864. McLeroy stared at Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg and a letter from four other Texas Nobel winners in biological sciences, all of them urging high academic standards for Texas students, and McLeroy voted instead against including evolution in textbooks, in 2003, and for including language pushing intelligent design. Someone, often alleged to be McLeroy, then telephoned publishers and warned them to tone down evolution and play up intelligent design in a fit of sore losership (no investigation was ever conducted). A “great quote” at McLeroy’s website explains (from Paul Johnson, End of Intellectuals):

The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that scepticism.

Condolence notes stream into Texas from scientists and educators. P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula, Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, the guys at DefConBlog, and Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, all cry the blues, and for good reason (read their accounts!).

The Dallas Morning News diplomatically expressed hope that McLeroy might rise above petty and partisan politics at a crucial time for education in Texas, in an editorial published over the weekend: [see below the fold]

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