State Board of Education Member Files Ethics Complaint
Jan 10, 2014 | 8105 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print

By Jody Serrano

For Reporting Texas

In a face-off over the controversial CSCOPE curriculum program used by hundreds of Texas school districts, one group of parents attacked its loudest supporter — the vice chairman of the State Board of Education. Now he is fighting back.

Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, said he filed a complaint last month with the Texas Ethics Commission against Alice Linahan, a mother in Argyle who helped lead the anti-CSCOPE movement. In the complaint, Ratliff contends that Linahan lobbied but did not register with the commission as a paid lobbyist. He is asking the commission to investigate Linahan’s activities and finances.

Linahan said in an interview that Ratliff’s complaint is groundless and that he is trying to suppress the views of parents who oppose CSCOPE.

CSCOPE is a curriculum management system that provided sample lessons to 875 Texas school districts. The districts encompassed about a third of the state’s students, according to the Texas Education Agency. CSCOPE was discontinued after concerns by Linahan and other parents about the lessons’ perceived liberal tilt reached lawmakers earlier this year.

After meeting with legislators, the Texas System of Education Service Centers, the state body that developed CSCOPE, agreed in May to stop producing the lessons.

Linahan is a Tea Party advocate who frequently has attacked Ratliff for supporting the use of the curriculum. Critics say the curriculum is anti-American and pro-Islam. One popular example is a lesson that asks students whether the British viewed participants in the Boston Tea Party as terrorists. CSCOPE was used by many of the state’s poorer school districts, many of which couldn’t afford a custom curriculum.

Ratliff said in an interview that the Ethics Commission rejected his initial complaint, and that he has refiled it with supporting documents. Natalia Ashley, special counsel for the commission, said it couldn’t confirm or deny that the complaint had been filed. She declined further comment.

“She’s been very active, and if she’s been doing all of this as a volunteer, my hat’s off to her,” Ratliff said of Linahan. “If she’s not being paid, then I have no problem with it because she’s complying with the law. But transparency’s good for everybody, and not just those of us that they disagree with.”

In a copy of Ratliff’s complaint obtained by Reporting Texas, Ratliff contends that Linahan’s activities lead to the reasonable belief that she is being compensated. He lists activities since June 6 that include a podcast with state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The complaint says Linahan has appeared at public meetings and debates with anti-CSCOPE t-shirts and signs.

Ratliff’s complaint includes a copy of Linahan’s registration form to speak at the Sept. 10 SBOE meeting, in which she says she is speaking on behalf of Women on the Wall, a conservative advocacy organization.

“Given the amount of her activity for the purpose of communicating and preparing to communicate with state officials, coupled with the level of expenditures related to her efforts, in addition to her unwillingness to state that she isn’t being compensated, it’s clear that she spends significant amounts of time and money on these activities,” Ratliff contends in the complaint.

Ratliff’s complaint is the latest example of dissension within the Texas Republican Party between the Tea Party and other Republicans. Some, like Ratliff, say the reason CSCOPE blew up is that lawmakers wanted to appease the Tea Party instead of representing their constituents.

Ratliff said he filed the complaint because Linahan did not register as a lobbyist after indicating she was one when she signed up to testify at a September State Board meeting. Linahan has criticized Ratliff for supporting CSCOPE and for being a lobbyist for Microsoft Corp., a role he has disclosed publicly.

Linahan launched the website and contends Ratliff reaps financial benefits from selling CSCOPE software. Ratliff denies receiving any money from CSCOPE.

State law requires a person who receives more than $1,000 to lobby during a calendar quarter to register with the commission. Individuals may file complaints with the commission if they believe someone being paid to lobby has not registered.

If the commission finds the complaint is valid, it can fine the lobbyist $5,000 or triple the amount in question, according to Ethics Commission guidelines.

Linahan said Ratliff has no grounds for his complaint and that she never signed a form indicating she was a lobbyist. Linahan said she is not compensated for her work with Voices Empower, which provides free advocacy workshops across the state and nation, and has used family money to do outreach work.

“He’s desperate to quiet the voices of moms and dads across the state that are in opposition of him being on the State Board of Education as an elected official and a Microsoft lobbyist,” Linahan said. “I’m not surprised.”

Meanwhile, schools are free to use CSCOPE lessons already produced and paid for with state money.

An SBOE committee is reviewing CSCOPE’s social studies lesson plans and is expected to release its report in the next few months. Though the board can’t ban the lessons, the review could help school districts decide whether to keep using them.




Welcome to Reporting Texas, a digital media initiative from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Reporting Texas accepts submissions from undergraduate and graduate students throughout the university, promoting engagement in the digital age of journalism.

Supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and its Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, Reporting Texas serves four primary goals: To showcase the best work of our University of Texas at Austin undergraduate and graduate students; to offer quality, multimedia reporting to local, state, and national news outlets; to experiment with new approaches in journalism education; and to combine aspects of community reporting with multimedia resources.

These efforts grow out of two previous initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism – CapLink and the Capital News Service – in which student journalists provided free public affairs reporting to community newspapers around Texas. In that spirit, Reporting Texas offers all content free of charge to all news outlets as long as we are credited for our work.

Reporting Texas focuses on unique and often hidden stories, using text, photos, audio, and video to provide views of in-depth people and places rarely seen in the news.

If you have questions/comments about the site, please contact the Reporting Texas editor, Mark Coddington. We encourage readers to leave comments, which we reserve the right to edit.

Also, you can check us out on Twitter.

And once again, welcome to Reporting Texas!

Who Contributes to Reporting Texas

Reporting Texas supports young journalists by fostering an ethical and creative environment for graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Texas to report the news and thereby shed light on our community and our world. Our mission is supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and its Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. Reporting Texas represents a wealth of disciplines, and all students are invited to present their ideas to our editorial staff, who review and edit all submissions. We welcome reporting through traditional and novel approaches, including text, photos, slideshows, sound slides, videos and mixed media. We emphasize reporting that focuses on untold stories.

Additionally, Reporting Texas is open to mutually beneficial partnerships across a wide breadth of news outlets. For more information, please send an e-mail to the editor, Mark Coddington.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet