We haven’t paid much attention to the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) since the elections of 2010, when — among other interesting results — the creationist dentist, Don McLeroy, was defeated in the Republican primary.
Our last post on this topic was Texas State School Board Results: Nov 2010. In one of the races we were watching then, for the seat in District 5, Rebecca Bell-Metereau was challenging Ken “Dog-Cat” Mercer. We previously wrote Beauty & the Beast about that contest. Alas, Mercer won, and we remarked:
Now that Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist, was defeated in a primary, and Cynthia Dunbar announced her retirement, Mercer is probably the most rabid member of the remaining theocratic creationist bloc.
We were also watching the race in District 10. About that one we had written: Marsha Farney or Judy Jennings? That seat was then held by Dunbar (a flaming creationist, who had purged Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment from the American Revolution) and we thought that Farney — although somewhat ambiguous about evolution — would be a definite improvement. Indeed, compared to Dunbar, almost anyone would have been an improvement. And Farney won.
Well, it’s all up for grabs again. We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from State Board of Education race could have lasting influence, which appears in the Austin American-Statesman. The bold font was added by us:
Each of the 15 seats on the State Board of Education is on the ballot this year, but only seven are truly competitive. All but one of those races will probably be decided by the May 29 primary.
In that case, we ought to start paying attention. Let’s read on:
In District 10, three contenders jumped into the GOP primary after the incumbent, Marsha Farney of Georgetown, decided to run for the Texas House.
That’s interesting. Farney had only recently replaced Dunbar, but now Farney’s going elsewhere. Who are the three GOP contenders? We continue:
Rebecca Osborne, a teacher at McNeil High School in Round Rock, is making a second run at the State Board of Education after losing in the 2010 primary. She said there is a disconnect between the board and the classroom and sometimes the contentious debate overshadows what students need.
We liked Osborne back in 2010 (see Primary Election Picks) but she didn’t make it through the primary. Let’s see who’s running against her:
Tom Maynard, executive director of Texas FFA [Future Farmers of America], and a former Florence school board member, also has classroom experience. He taught for 13 years before coming to Austin to run the statewide agricultural education group.
Maynard said the board must focus more on ensuring that quality training and work experience are available to students who are not headed to college. And the board should avoid mandating how school districts address controversial curriculum issues, such as the theory of evolution.
That sounds good. Oh, there’s also this:
“I really believe in local control. I am a true conservative when it comes to that. I am a social conservative, but I think we can have a little common sense, too,” Maynard said.
We’ll stick with Osborne. Who’s the third candidate in District 10? The newspaper says:
Liberty Hill resident Jeff Fleece, an executive at Dell Inc., said his private sector experience will help him ensure that students graduating from Texas high schools are prepared to be successful in today’s economy. The State Board of Education, he said, should be committed to ensuring that public education is meeting the needs of taxpayers and the economy. He credits the board’s conservative bloc for making progress toward adopting rigorous, knowledge-based standards that work toward that goal.
We remember that “conservative bloc.” Osborne is still our choice. Then there’s District 5. That’s the seat currently held by creationist-theocrat incumbent, Ken “Cat-Dog” Mercer — he dismisses evolution by asking: “Have you ever seen a dog-cat, or a cat-rat?” He’s being challenged in the GOP primary by Steve Salyer, about whom the Austin American-Statesman says:
Salyer, a physician assistant and retired Army captain who works with wounded soldiers at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, said the board must be more open and transparent with the public when adopting curriculum standards.
He also said the cultural battles that have roiled the board in recent years have been an unnecessary distraction and take away from board’s core mission of ensuring students are ready for college or the workforce upon graduation.
He sounds okay. Even a fence post would be a big improvement over Mercer. Hey, there’s also this:
In both districts, the Democrats who were defeated in the 2010 general election — Judy Jennings in District 10 and Rebecca Bell-Metereau in District 5 — are running again. They are unopposed in the primary.
Great! Back in 2010, we favored the highly qualified Rebecca Bell-Metereau when she ran against Mercer in the general election. She ain’t no fence post. As for Jennings, when she ran against Farney in the general election we posted Texas SBOE: Marsha Farney or Judy Jennings? We were delighted that Farney had crushed Dunbar’s chosen replacement in the primary, but we preferred Jennings for her clear statements on science education. Since then we haven’t followed Farney’s career. It doesn’t matter now that she’s not running for re-election. We’re hoping for an Osborne win in the primary. Then we’ll deal with the general election in due course.
One final thing: We recently learned about this website: Teach the Vote, run by the Association of Texas Professional Educators. It says: “Texas voters can research the education stances of candidates for the Legislature and the State Board of Education.” We haven’t used it yet, but it may be a handy resource.
So there you are. Things are heating up again in Texas. We’ll be watching.
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