Local School Districts Pass on Obama's Speech

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Most North Texas school districts are passing on President Barack Obama's education speech.

    School districts across Texas are pondering whether they'll have their students watch a national address by President Barack Obama next week.

    The speech on the importance of education is aimed directly at the nation's school children at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Obama has asked school districts to carry the live webcast.

    Districts in North Texas have received complaints about the speech, and most are not broadcasting it to their students.

    "There appears to be a curriculum associated with the speech," said Fred Moses, chairman of the Collin County Republican Party.

    Parent Bobby Lochner said he wouldn't mind his children hearing a speech on education -- if that's all the message is.

    "On the surface, and if it's kept to at that -- as just talking to the American people and the importance of education -- obviously that is very important," he said.

    Many districts are making Obama's speech available, but are not requiring students to watch it.

    The Dallas Independent School District will broadcast the speech live on its cable channel. Principals will decide if they want to air it live.

    And the Fort Worth Independent School District will have the speech available live at all of its high schools, but students will not be required to watch it. Students who choose not to view it will be offered alternative activities.

    In Plano, the school district will record the speech and have the video available to students for later.

    PTA council president Cara Mendelsohn said Obama is "cutting out the parent" by speaking to kids during school hours.

    "Why can't a parent be watching this with their kid in the evening?" Mendelsohn said. "Because that's what makes a powerful statement, when a parent is sitting there saying, 'This is what I dream for you. This is what I want you to achieve."'

    Other districts in North Texas are posting the speech on their Web sites and making it available for social studies teachers to use at a later time.

    In a letter last week to the nation's school principal, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the speech would challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.

    The Department of Education has a list for teachers of suggested classroom activities for before, during and after the speech posted on its Web site.

    The suggestions for grades 7 through 12 include discussing the words "responsibility, persistence and goals" prior to the speech and discussing what in the speech "resonated" with students. Click here to read all of the suggested activities.

    For grades prekindergarten through sixth grade, the suggested activities include building "background knowledge" by reading books about Obama and presidents before the speech and writing down "key ideas or phrases" during the speech that students find meaningful or important. Click here to read all of the suggested activities.

    Gov. Rick Perry called the Obama's plan for the speech "disturbing" but said he would not advise parents to keep their children home from school Tuesday.

    Perry said the speech and its suggested activities were another example of the federal government trying to usurp state and local input.

    "Nobody seems to know what he's going to be talking about ... why didn't he spend more time talking to the local districts, superintendents?" he said.

    The speech will be streamed live on the White House Web site.

    The following is a list of how various school districts are handling the speech. Districts are listed alphabetically:

    • Allen ISD: Speech will not be shown to grades kindergarten through third grade but will be used as part of the social studies/government curriculum for grades 4 through 12.
    • Arlington ISD: Making the speech available for students and parents on its Web site. The speech will also be available for classroom use as deemed appropriate to the district's curriculum.
    • Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD: District will record the speech, and teachers can choose to use it at a later time.
    • Dallas ISD: Speech will be live on its cable channel. Principals will decide if they want to air it live.
    • Denton ISD: Speech will be available on its Web site for anyone to view, but will not be broadcast to students.
    • Duncanville ISD: Social studies teachers will have the option of broadcasting the speech to their students.
    • Fort Worth ISD: Speech available live at all of its high schools, but students will not be required to watch it. Students who choose not to view will have alternative activities.
    • Frisco ISD: District will record the speech, and teachers can choose to use it at a later time.
    • HEB ISD: Speech will be recorded as a podcast. It will be available to social students teachers who want to use it in class and to everyone on the district's Web site.
    • Highland Park ISD: Any teacher can choose to broadcast it.
    • Keller ISD: Speech will be available live. Teachers can show it if they want to.
    • Lancaster ISD: District will record the speech, and teachers can choose to use it at a later time.
    • Mansfield ISD: Speech will be recorded, and teachers can use it at a later time.
    • Plano ISD: Speech will be available on its Web site for anyone to view, but will not be broadcast to students.
    • Richardson ISD: The speech will be available on Wednesday, the day after, and optional for grades kindergarten through 12. Parents will need to give permission for students in grades kindergarten through 8. No discussions or lessons will be offered afterward.

    Districts not listed did not return calls requesting information.

    Districts in other states such as Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students. Others are still thinking it over or are letting parents have their kids opt out.