The frustration of Texas legislators with the State Board of Education‘s continuing efforts to drag public schools into the culture wars was so high that the confirmation of Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment of Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, to another term as board chair this year never made it to the Senate floor. In fact, the Senate Nominations Committee didn’t even bother to hold a public hearing.
This marks the second session in a row in which the Senate has refused to approve a Perry appointee to head the highly politicized state board. Two years ago Don McLeroy, R-College Station, failed to win Senate confirmation. Since his appointment as chair in the summer of 2007, McLeroy had presided over a number of controversial decisions by the board. Among the most controversial was the board’s adoption of new curriculum standards designed to force creationist arguments against evolution into public school science classes. McLeroy, a self-described “young Earth creationist,” had been a leader in winning the passage of those deeply flawed science standards.
Some observers hoped that McLeroy’s replacement, Lowe, would try to refocus the board on educating Texas kids rather than promoting “culture war” battles. She didn’t.
Last year Lowe sponsored a board resolution attacking Islam and falsely claiming that publishers are writing history textbooks that are anti-Christian. Even more damning, however, was Lowe’s support for new social studies curriculum standards that have been sharply criticized by educators, scholars, civil rights groups and even the Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank that had this to say about the standards:
“The conservative majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has openly sought to use the state curriculum to promote its political priorities, molding the telling of the past to justify its current views and aims. Indeed, the SBOE majority displayed overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars, whom they derided as insidious activists for a liberal academic establishment.”
Last week Gov. Perry appointed yet another member of the board’s far-right faction as chair: Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands. Cargill, who has voted in almost lockstep with Lowe and McLeroy in the past, can serve without Senate confirmation until the Legislature meets again — and it’s not scheduled to do so until the 2013 regular session.