WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - MARCH 22, 2023
In this week's Intersect, read about:
State of Texas to Take Over Houston School District
“The Texas Education Agency announced that it will take over the Houston Independent School District, ending a four-year legal battle. TEA notified HISD of its decision Wednesday morning. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said the takeover will help the state's largest school district get back on track. Though a takeover is largely a bureaucratic move at the highest levels of the district, the move could affect the 187,000 students and staff if schools are closed or turned into charters, critics say.” read more at Axios
- This is not just a Texas matter. Did you know that as of 2017, 33 states have passed laws to permit a state takeover of public school districts that did not meet the state’s accountability measures? What prompted replacing the HISD school board with managers appointed by the state? By 2019, 50 HISD schools received D or F grades, and Phillis Wheatley High School had received an unacceptable rating for seven consecutive years.
- The tension: although many HISD schools, including Wheatley, have been elevated to a C grade since then, this takeover is still mandated by state laws passed in 2015 and 2021. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said this action is “not discretionary,” and he is required by law “to either order a closure of that school or order a board of managers for the whole district." The managers will be responsible for all duties of the former elected board in governing the management of the schools.
- More tension: direct local control through an elected school board has been lost. Texas has taken over school districts 15 times in the past 30 years. But this high-profile instance involving the eighth-largest district in the country is prompting big questions. While some frame the issue as a political move by conservatives over a liberal part of the state, that is not really the case. Houston state representative Harold Dutton, a Democrat who co-authored the 2015 law, has defended it, arguing, “It’s HISD’s responsibility to educate students and when they let them fail, they should be punished….We never thought anybody would let a school fail for five consecutive school years.” At the same time, Kevin Malonson, executive director of left-leaning nonprofit Teach Plus Texas, said this takeover “flies in the face of everything Texas is about as far as local control.”
- Another big question is, do state takeovers of local districts truly help students? If corruption, neglect, and incompetence occur among elected trustees, why expect appointed managers to do better? A 2021 nationwide study cast doubt on the effectiveness of takeovers. Academic improvements in some districts appeared to be more exception than rule. Suggested remedies other than takeovers have included: school choice to rescue students trapped in failing schools, special elections to replace corrupt school board members, and increased parental input for accountability–something that should already be occurring, even in successful districts!
- The lesson for all of us: Sometimes we don’t appreciate the value of something until it’s lost. Do you take the blessing of voting for your school board for granted? School board election turnout is roughly only 10%, yet they are some of the most important for their influence on the future of countless students.
Pray for the selection of the new managers, and for the parents, students, and teachers of Houston ISD. Lift up the students, staff, and board members of your own school district, even if you don’t have kids in public school. Pray for strong families and churches that will train up children in wisdom and godliness, especially when their schools fail.
Our friends at iVoterGuide have created a personal starter kit to help you discover what those running for school board truly believe about important issues. With 9,000 districts up for election this year, you or somebody you know probably needs this information! Visit iVoterGuide.com to download the free resource.
Biden Calls Bans on Transgender Treatments for Children ‘Close to Sinful’
“President Joe Biden criticized Florida’s regulation of transgender medical care for children and ban on gender ideology in the classroom, calling the measures ‘close to sinful.’ Biden said in an interview with Daily Show guest host Kal Penn: ‘What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful. I mean it’s just terrible what they’re doing.’ Although the president did not specify which laws he was referring to, Republican lawmakers in Florida and other states have introduced bills and regulations to protect children from transgender medical interventions and restrict classroom instruction in gender ideology. During his interview, Biden added that federal legislation might be necessary to prevent states from adopting certain bills that affect transgender policies related to children.” read more at the Catholic News Agency
- Florida House Bill 1421 would prohibit the use of federal funds for “gender clinical interventions,” as well as “hormone antagonistic therapies,” puberty blockers and “sex reassignment” surgeries for minors (those under the age of 18). Florida Governor Ron DeSantis responded to the President’s criticism, suggesting, “It is not ‘sinful’ to prohibit the mutilation of minors. It is not acceptable for the federal government to mandate that procedures like sex change operations be allowed for kids.”
- There is no such thing as “close to sinful.” Scripture makes it clear that sin represents “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) and “rebelliousness” (Deuteronomy 9:7), a form of transgression against God’s Word and His ways. A simple way to define sin is “the act of going against God and His ways” (Romans 3:23). It makes sense that, when we are going against something, we are separated from it. By definition, then, sin separates us from God.
- Two states taking radical action now that they have Democrat majorities are Michigan and Minnesota. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Thursday, codifying LGBTQ protections into the state's civil rights law, permanently outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 22 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, have similar non-discrimination laws that include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes of persons. However, each of those states includes some type of religious liberty protection. Michigan’s new law does not have such protections.
- In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order effectively making the state a “gender-affirming healthcare” sanctuary state for children even though two-thirds of state voters oppose the practice. During the signing, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan gained national attention for her remarks on parenting and children changing their gender saying, "When our children tell us who they are, it is our job as grown-ups to listen and to believe them. That's what it means to be a good parent."
- Why would we rush to such drastic measures, even codifying into law the willful destruction of our children because of an ideology founded on the false claim that a human being is free to choose whether to be a man or a woman? It is true that some people are uncomfortable with who they are. Actually, that is true for all of us at different points of our lives. But it is one thing to struggle with accepting who God wants us to be, and quite another to reject who He made us. Paul puts it like this. “Who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?”’ (Romans 9:20). We are mortals, and we do well to remember our place because the idea that “I am my own authority” is limitless in its destructive variations.
Lord, You are the creator and sustainer of all things. Your perfect design of male and female is good. We grieve to see the all-out war against our children, bringing confusion, chaos and destruction to their lives in the name of “acceptance” and “affirmation.” Give me courage to stand against the rebellion towards You and the resolve to protect the children in my life.
Even the CDC is pushing gender ideology to children. My Faith Votes developed an assessment to help parents determine whether their child’s school has been infected by the CDC’s LGBTQ agenda. By answering provided questions, parents can know whether their child’s school is mildly, moderately, or seriously infected with LGBTQ propaganda. It also provides advice on how to protect your kids and affect change at the school. You can download a free copy here.
Citing Overreach, Gov. Kristi Noem Vetoes Banking Regulation Bill
“HB 1193 is 113 pages long, and if it became law it would affect the banking transactions you make every day. But the push to get that bill into law stalled on the last step, as a result of a veto by Governor Kristi Noem announced Friday. ‘By defining ‘money’ in this proposed way, HB 1193 opens the door to the risk that the federal government could easily adopt a Central Bank Digital Currency, which then may become the only viable digital currency,’ Noem said in a press release announcing the veto. ‘At this moment in time, such a government-backed electronic currency has not been created. It would be imprudent to create regulations governing something that does not yet exist. More importantly, South Dakota should not open the door to a potential future overreach by the federal government.’” read more Dakota News Now
- The little-publicized, but noteworthy South Dakota legislation would have made it one step easier for the federal government to implement a central bank digital currency (CBDC). Identical legislation is being offered in more than 20 other states, and many lawmakers (Republicans and Democrats alike) have continued to move the bills forward despite claiming to be opposed to the development of a “digital dollar.” It’s important to note that the proposed legislation would not yet establish a digital currency, nor require its creation in the future. It would, however, help lay the foundation for CBDC or other government-mandated digital currency in the future.
- What’s the fuss about? The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), first released in 1952, generally helps standardize existing commercial and business transactions across the nation. Periodically updating the UCC has traditionally been viewed by most legislatures as something perfunctory, so it typically receives little scrutiny. As a result, the new version containing the troubling provisions on digital currency has been introduced in 24 states and has already passed the legislative chambers in states such as North Dakota, Colorado, and Hawaii…all largely under the radar. The way Uniform Law Commission works, the same Uniform Commercial Code will be introduced in all 50 states.
- The Federal Reserve has been looking to develop a central bank digital currency for years but the latest push for a CBDC comes from President Biden’s Executive Order issued in March of 2022. And last September Biden released the “first-ever comprehensive framework” for digital assets that included recommendations from multiple government agencies. Members of Congress are concerned over the role and function of a CBDC, for there are far too many unknowns about how electronic money will look and act.
- Why should we care about this? Michelle Makori from Kitco News gives this perspective: "Generally speaking a Central Bank Digital Currency is the digital form of a country's Fiat currency. A CBDC is issued and regulated by a nation's monetary authority or Central Bank. It is programmable so it can be modified to work or not work in certain transactions. And it allows authorities to monitor every single payment made and received. Obliterating financial privacy and anonymity."
- There is so much more to this story than can be covered in just a few paragraphs today. But it’s important to be aware of the ways our world is changing around us, particularly through legislation which we may not even be aware of yet impacts each of us greatly. May this be a reminder to be vigilant in prayer and willing to get off the sidelines and be an active participant for good. As Galatians 6:9-10 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Lord, when the world is moving at a dizzying pace, help me not to get caught up in the chaos and uncertainty. Help me to stay focused on You. Help me to remember that You are my Sustainer and You are in control. And as Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”
My Faith Votes has joined a coalition of other organizations and individuals, urging state legislators to use caution in pushing through premature legislation regarding any UCC changes. You can send a message to your state legislators as well! We’ve created this easy-to-use tool to send a message right here. Please take a moment to reach out to your state legislators now.
Wyoming Passes First-of-its-Kind Law Criminalizing Sale, Prescription of Abortion Pills
“Wyoming has passed legislation criminalizing the sale and prescription of abortion pills after Republican Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill on Friday dubbed the ‘first of its kind.’ The legislation, SF 0109, was sponsored by Republican Sen. Tim Salazar and will take effect on July 1. The bill makes it a felony to prescribe, sell or use ‘any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion.’ Violators face up to six months in prison and a $9,000 fine.” read more at the Christian Post
- Other states have total bans on abortion that include the abortion pill, or they prohibit the pill from being distributed through the mail. But this is the first law exclusively banning the use of the abortion pill. “The new chemical abortion law, along with the Human Life Protection Act [a near-total ban] and extending postpartum Medicaid coverage, make Wyoming one of the most pro-life states in the country,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America stated. A lawsuit against the new abortion pill ban has just been filed, and it remains to be seen whether a judge will halt it.
- One state taking action for life is a victory in itself! But it can also produce a ripple effect as other states follow Wyoming’s example. It is encouraging to see that while the abortion pill is growing in popularity, its influence is being curbed by elected officials of many states. In a post-Roe country, state legislatures, governors, attorneys general, and others in public office can stand in the gap for women and babies. They can do this not only by enacting laws but enforcing them–which both state and local officials are responsible for. However, some elected or appointed judges have stopped pro-life legislation in response to lawsuits. All three branches of government at your state level touch this issue for good or ill.
- After being notified of federal and state law by the attorneys general of at least 21 states, Walgreens announced that it would not dispense abortion pills in those states where it is not legal. Wyoming will likely join that list due to their new state law. This is not because Walgreens’ leadership has had a change of heart, but because they do not want to face lawsuits against their company. They will still dispense the pills in states that allow it.
- It is wonderful to see people’s actions change as a result of their softened hearts, but it is also good to see God work through governing authorities to curb evil even if a person’s heart has not changed. These laws and the work of many attorneys general are great examples.
Pray that these laws will withstand any legal challenges and be allowed to take effect. Pray for the efforts of other states who are trying to pass pro-life laws and navigate lawsuits. Pray for the Lord to use you to help people value life, whether your state is pro-life or pro-abortion. Proverbs 24:11-12 says, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”
No matter what state you live in, our Take Action For Life page has many ways to advance a culture of life, from prayer to practical help to political action. Check it out and pick an action, then enlist a friend to help!
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.