Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Texas Representative Proposes Law to Exempt Private, Nonprofits from Coordinating Texas Education Board Rules

In response to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board denying the Institute for Creation Research's proposal to offer an online master's degree in science education, Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has proposed legislation to exempt private, nonprofit educational institutions that do not accept state funding and state-administered federal funding from the board rules.

Members of the coordinating board, who are gubernatorial appointees, voted 8-0 in April to reject the proposal by the Dallas-based institute. Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said at the time that the institute's program, based on a literal interpretation of biblical creation, falls outside the realm of science and therefore could not be designated "science" or "science education." De Juana Lozada, a spokeswoman for the coordinating board, said Friday that the agency could not comment because the Institute for Creation Research has appealed the board's decision and the proposed legislation could have ramifications for the case.

Lawrence Ford, a spokesman for the institute, said in an e-mail that Berman's measure "is not limited to a particular viewpoint, either creationist or evolutionist, theist or atheist, Jewish or Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or Hindu, rich or poor, or any other viewpoint."

Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science, said the measure promotes a right-wing religious agenda. "It would make Texas a magnet for unscrupulous private 'educational' companies that will want to offer students the opportunity to pay for bogus advanced degrees," Schafersman wrote on his group's Web site. "If H.B. 2800 became law, it would be a gold mine to every fly-by-night, degree-granting outfit in the country."

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