Page 21


employers of such workers and has become known nationally for its antiliving wage stance. “Living wage mandates are at best an inefficient and inferior policy vehicle for helping poor families. At worst, they harm poor families by reducing their work opportunities and income,” a July report by the institute read. The EPI website contains opposition research on the living wage movement, presumably for use by opponents of living wage initiatives, which seek to set a local wage floor significantly higher than the federal minimum wage, and which have become increasingly common in cities across the country. The exact number of letters sent to Texas groups isn’t known, but at least two groups have reported receiving them: Valley Interfaith, a coalition of churches and schools in the Rio Grande Valley that works for social, political, and economic improvements in the area, and San Antonio’s Communities Organized based organization that works to channel housing and public services into inter-city neighborhoods. Joe Hinojosa, a leader of Valley Interfaith, suspects the motive is harassment. “It’s kind of upsetting to think that someone and we have no idea exactly who is funding these people Valley Interfaith is insinuating that we have something to hide when all we are doing is trying to help people earn a decent living,” he said. Larry Mishel, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute \(the other D.C.-based think tank, said these aren’t typical tactics of a research group. “I’m not aware of any D.C.based think tanks that have done research on competing organizations and their funding:’ he said. ” It’s unusual, and it’s not economics.” Asked about the letters, John Doyle, a spokesman for the Employment Policies Institute, said that his group has sent out hundreds of such letters to groups around the country in an effort to research foundation funding and the groups that benefit from it. Doyle says the idea of harassment is absurd, since all of the information is public record. But Andres Sarabia, a leader of COPS, isn’t so sure. “We organized in 1974. Why 27 years later are these inquires happening? Is this a prelude to a major battle against living wages?” HOMELAND THOUGHT POLICE. In a proudly defiant gesture that suggested recent alleged ethics violations aren’t about to interfere with the State Board of Education’s reli Alan Pogue 4iiia AWM–1071.sgriegg , gious mission, Texas’ wackiest governing entity rejected several environmental science textbooks November 9, and accepted another only after the publisher agreed to a list of changes proposed by the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation. Although state law allows the board to consider only factual errors in voting to reject a textbook, board-watchers suspect that the vote had less to do with the facts than with a parade of witnesses at the board meeting who denounced the books as ” against Christianity’ ,’ “intended to subvert the values taught by the student’s church and family’ ,’ and liable to “frighten and indoctrinate our youth.” “You have the right to counter the lies of radical environmentalism,” witness Bill Ames exhorted the he said, “should conform to Texas law to include factual text, support the free enterprise system, and encourage patriotism.” Looks like the SBOE’ ten Republican members may be trying to shore up their fundamentalist Christian bases, in light of continuing developments on the public corruption front. In recent weeks, it has emerged that financial advisers to the board may have tried to bribe members to place the Permanent School Fund in the custody of a particular bank which is a client of those same advisers. The new allegations will be investigated by a legislative committeethe same committee that last year found plenty of other problems with the SBOE’s management of the fund. Legislation that would have established a committee of independent financial advisers and strengthened ethics rules for the SBOE passed out of both houses last session, but ended up on the governor’s chopping block. This month, Governor Perry defended that veto but recommended to the board that it appoint an advisory committee. 11/23/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13