The Coup Against Dew

Texas Monthly
The Coup Against Dew
by Paul Burka

Early on the evening of August 24, a tall, rangy man wearing a black suit swaggered into a conference room on the campus of the University of Texas at Tyler. He was there to debate the merits, or lack thereof, of a curriculum system for Texas public schools known as CSCOPE. You might think that this event would have trouble drawing a crowd, especially on a night when the Cowboys were playing a preseason football game on national television. But CSCOPE is a hot topic, especially among parents whose taste in politics leans toward tea. Demonized as a leftist plot to infiltrate our schools and brainwash youngsters with cultural relativism and creeping socialism, it has become one of the red-meat issues of the inaugural days of the 2014 campaign cycle. And nobody has played the controversy to better advantage, so far, than the man in the black suit, state senator Dan Patrick. You might even say he created it.

Patrick is the chair of the Senate Education Committee, a position conferred on him in advance of the last legislative session by the Senate’s presiding officer, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Bestowing such a prize was Dewhurst’s clumsy way of trying to hold an enemy close, but it backfired spectacularly. Patrick used his chairmanship to win over suburban parents with sweeping reforms that will limit the number of standardized tests and to whip up hard-core conservatives with a series of hearings on CSCOPE; conveniently, this raised his profile among the two key sectors of the primary electorate that he would need in order to challenge the lieutenant governor. At Dewhurst’s lowest moment this summer, just after Wendy Davis’s dramatic filibuster had turned his chamber into a launchpad for her political career, Patrick announced he was running to replace his onetime benefactor…

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