The PJ Tatler

So, Just How Many Teachers Are There in the State of Texas?

Skipping ahead, the answer is “A lot.” I was actually surprised to find out just how many teachers there are in the state of Texas.

But why ask the question in the first place? It’s not a “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” question. There has been a blog feud over the past week or so regarding Rick Perry, Aga Khan and a 2005-2006 seminar for about 80 Texas teachers regarding Islam and the teaching of world cultures in Texas public schools. World cultures instruction begins early in Texas schools and covers about what you’d expect: Cultures, traditions, religions and such around the world. Islam is going to come up, just as it did when I was a kid in Texas public schools farther back in the mists of time than I’d care to admit. The allegation regarding the Aga Khan seminar is that it’s not actually instruction, but a dawah, a call to Islamic faith, and makes Muslims out of the teachers. That’s not my view of the curriculum; I don’t think it’s a dawah. That’s the position held by some bloggers including Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. I don’t know Geller personally, but I do know Spencer and consider him a friend and a very credible blogger. I do disagree with them on this story, though. They have made their case, but have not proven it, and their evidence backing up the incendiary charge against Perry, because he met with Aga Khan in 2002 to discuss the seminar, is quite weak. The evidence that Khan himself is a stealth jihadist is also quite weak. For one thing, unlike them I actually live in Texas and have a child in the schools here. If sharia is being taught here, it’s being taught with such stealth that it has had literally no impact at all. For another, the idea that Rick Perry is some sort of stealth sharia supporter is ludicrous and doesn’t square up with his very strong support for Israel at all.

But getting back to the question in the headline, the seminar was given to about 80 Texas teachers. Well, 80 out of how many? How proportionally large a group is this subset of teachers who some claim were indoctrinated by the stealth jihadist, Gov. Rick Perry? It turns out that Texas does publish the number of teachers in the public schools, and it turns out that that number was a political point of contention a little over a year ago, when conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan pointed out that Texas public schools employ a non-teacher for every teacher. PolitiFact checked out that claim (probably at the behest of Democrats who routinely enlist PolitiFact to engage conservatives to brand them liars and whatnot) and found out that Sullivan’s point is “Mostly True.”The proportion of non-teachers to teachers in Texas public schools is nearly one-to-one. Sullivan used that number to point out that there is substantial room to cut public school budgets without laying teachers off, and I rate that statement as “Entirely True.” Just check out the outrageous salaries public school superintendents pull down these days, for one thing.

So here’s the number: There are 321,092 teachers in public schools in Texas. There were probably a few more than 321,092 teachers in Texas in 2006, and there are probably a few less now — budget crunches have hit public schools everywhere. Statistically, the fluctuation probably doesn’t mean much though. Of that number, let’s say 322,000 just to have a round number, 80 teachers of the thousands who actually teach world cultures attended the controversial seminar. Of that number, at least one came away and drafted a curriculum that turned out to be very critical of Islam.

If that’s anyone’s idea of a stealth jihad, well, it’s so stealth as to be entirely meaningless. This whole story is just a rabbit that’s not worth chasing.