Eleven U.S. states to drop suit over transgender bathroom order

An activist waves a rainbow flag during the "Queer and Trans Dance Party" in protest of U.S. President Donald Trump outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

(Reuters) – Eleven U.S. states have agreed to drop a lawsuit against an Obama administration order for transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice after the measure was revoked by President Donald Trump, a court filing showed on Thursday.

In a filing in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Justice Department said the states, led by Texas, had agreed to drop the lawsuit, and it was dropping its appeal against a federal judge’s August stay on the Obama directive.

In their suit in May, the states said Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration overstepped its authority by ordering public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms matching their gender identity, rather than their birth gender, or risk losing federal funding.

Obama officials had said that barring students from such bathrooms violated Title IX, the federal law that forbids sex discrimination in education.

But the directive enraged conservatives who say federal civil rights protections cover biological sex, not gender identity. Obama was succeeded by Trump, a Republican, when he left office in January.

Texas was joined in the lawsuit by Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Arizona Department of Education, Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage and two school districts also were parties to the suit.

A federal judge in August barred adoption of the order during the hearing of the case. The Justice Department appealed the stay, saying it should only apply to the states challenging the order.

Last week, the Trump administration rescinded the order, leaving states and school boards to decide how to accommodate transgender students.

Other lawsuits about the rights of transgender students are being heard in the courts.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on March 28 addressing the question of whether the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia can block a female-born transgender student from using the boys’ bathroom.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Kansas Supreme Court finds state underfunds schools

(Reuters) – The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state’s system of funding primary and secondary public schools falls short of an adequacy requirement in the state constitution.

The high court said it was delaying enforcement of its unanimous ruling until the end of June to give the legislature time to respond.

It warned that if the state fails to come up with a funding system that complies with the constitution by the June 30 deadline, the court will move to void the current method of school finance.

Kansas spends more than $4 billion a year on schools, with most of the money coming from the state general fund. The supreme court’s ruling could add another $800 million, according to Alan Rupe, an attorney for the four school districts that filed the lawsuit.

The ruling comes at a bad time for the Kansas budget. Tax cuts enacted in 2012 have gouged a hole in the budget as revenue failed to meet monthly estimates, although February marked a fourth straight month that collections met or exceeded projections.

A move in the state legislature to boost revenue by raising tax rates and eliminating a business exemption failed last week when the Senate was unable to override Governor Sam Brownback’s veto.

Rupe said the state’s fiscal woes should not interfere with the requirement to fund education properly.

“I don’t know that the constitution provides constitutional rights only when we can afford to do it,” he said.

The governor’s office will make a comment once the ruling is fully reviewed, according to a Brownback spokeswoman.

S&P Global Ratings cited the state’s structural budget pressures and reliance on one-time revenue measures when it revised the outlook on the state’s AA-minus credit rating to negative from stable last month.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

Texas to consider Mexican-American textbook critics decry as racist

School bus

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – The State Board of Education in Texas is expected to hear testimony next week from critics of a new textbook for Mexican-American studies who say the tome is riddled with mistakes and perpetrates demeaning stereotypes.

The book’s publisher, run by an evangelical Christian and self-described Republican patriot, argues it is academically sound and is being targeted by those advancing a liberal political agenda.

A decision by the Texas State Board of Education to approve the book could have wide ramifications. The conservative board is responsible for buying 48 million textbooks a year, and volumes that win its support often are marketed by publishers to school districts nationally.

The textbook being considered at a hearing on Tuesday in Austin, titled “Mexican American Heritage,” was the only one submitted after Texas put out a request for a book to be used in a proposed high school elective course on Mexican-American studies.

One of the few liberal members of the board, Ruben Cortez, said in a statement this week that the book “describes Mexicans as lazy, alleges that Mexican culture does not value hard work and that Mexicans bring drug and crime into the country.”

He commissioned a body of academics, mostly professors of history, to examine the book. They said in a report this week it was filled with errors and did not meet state standards.

“We have a web of racist assertions that are built in passages, that are built on multiple errors. This is a textbook that is a polemic against the Mexican-American community,” said Trinidad Gonzales, a history instructor at South Texas College who was on the book review team.

One passage regarded as biased concerned views employers have had of Mexican workers.

It reads: “Stereotypically, Mexicans were viewed as lazy compared to European or American workers … It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem.”

Cynthia Dunbar, chief executive of Momentum Instruction which published the book, said in a phone interview the criticism is unfounded.

“There is absolutely no context, motivation and no agenda to in any way do anything negative or detrimental to Mexican-Americans or Mexican-American history,” said Dunbar, a former Texas state school board member from 2007 to 2011 who is now based in Virginia.

She is listed as a contributor to the book, which was written by two people whose credentials are not listed.

The state board likely will make a decision later this year whether to approve the book.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Marguerita Choy)