Texas State Board of Education Poised for Change

Marion Herbert's picture
Monday, June 4, 2012

These folks have been running for places on the 15-member Texas State Board of Education, which sets parameters for what public schoolchildren are supposed to learn, highly influencing the content of textbooks purchased all over the state and beyond.

Was anybody talking about Gail Lowe's upset by Sue Melton after Tuesday's Republican primary?

How about Michael Soto's major defeat by little-known Marisa Perez on the Democratic side?

And who noticed Tincy Miller getting back at George Clayton, the guy who pushed her out of office, by getting into a runoff for a chance to replace him and regain the seat?

None of these names mean much to most Texans -- but they should. 

The board isn't as powerful as it once was, thanks to the Legislature scaling back authority. But the panel still is a major forum for tug-of-wars over explosive social issues, such as how evolution and American history are to be taught and how explicit health textbooks should be about sexually transmitted diseases. Not that those topics should be the focus. But the board has caused furors and drawn national attention for its debates over teaching creationism in public school science classes and its micromanagement of revisions to social studies guidelines to insert conservative ideology.

Observers doing the early scoring are saying the primary results won't change much. But that assessment sounds premature.

All 15 board members have to run this year because voting districts were redrawn to adapt to population shifts reflected in the census. Four seats are open because incumbents chose not to run. Plus, three incumbents were ousted in the primaries. Soto, a Democrat and Trinity University English professor who had run after the brouhaha about social studies guidelines, was beat by Perez, a social worker. Gail Lowe, a Lampasas Republican who has served for a decade and chaired the board in 2009-11, lost to Melton, a retired teacher. And Clayton, a Richardson educator who had beat longtime board member Miller in the 2010 GOP primary, now is out. Of course, most races for the board won't be decided until November because other candidates, including a few from the Libertarian and Green parties, still are in the running.


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