You might think that all of the candidates seeking election to the body that oversees the public education system in Texas would actually support public education. But candidate answers in a religious-right group’s voter guide this month suggest you would be wrong.

At least three Republican candidates — including one incumbent — in this year’s Texas State Board of Education elections say they “strongly disagree” that “it is the government’s responsibility to be sure children are properly educated.” The same candidates also say they “strongly agree” that “free market competition for education dollars” would be better than a “government monopoly.” “Free market competition” is the core argument for advocates of private school vouchers, which take tax dollars from public schools to pay tuition for students admitted to private and religious schools.

District 7 incumbent David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, and District 11 Republican candidates Eric Mahroum and Lady Theresa Thombs, both of Fort Worth, all take those positions in the voter guide from Texas Values. Texas Values is the Austin-based lobby arm of Liberty Institute, a religious-right litigation group headquartered in Plano north of Dallas. (Actually, it appears that the voter guide is part of a nationally coordinated project… Read More

Don McLeroy, who infamously declared that “somebody’s gotta stand up to experts” in the debate over teaching evolution in public school science classrooms, has waded into a key Texas State Board of Election (SBOE) election contest. Eric Mahroum announced on Jan. 29 that the creationist former SBOE chair is backing his challenge to incumbent Pat Hardy in the District 11 Republican Primary. Lady Theresa Thombs is the third GOP candidate in that North Texas race.

Mahroum’s website quotes McLeroy as charging that Hardy “disqualified herself to serve” on the SBOE by supporting a proposal in 2011 to allow voters to decide whether to transfer $2 billion from the Permanent School Fund (PSF) to the state’s public education budget. McLeroy’s claims that Hardy “acted irresponsibly” by “encouraging a massive raid” on the PSF, which funds textbooks. The proposal’s supporters argued at the time that voters should be able to decide whether to use PSF money to soften the blow of billions of dollars in devastating cuts state lawmakers ultimately made to the state budget for public schools.

But no one should be fooled here: the real issue here for McLeroy isn’t the PSF. He really opposes Hardy’s… Read More

With just a month go before the March 4 primary elections, challenger Rita Ashley is outspending — by far — incumbent David Bradley in the Republican primary race for the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) District 7 seat in Southeast Texas.

Ashley lost to Bradley in the 2012 GOP primary. She is a former schoolteacher and has worked both as the clerk for the Texas House Public Education Committee and as district director for Republican state Sen. Tommy Williams.

Campaign finance reports show that she has loaned her campaign $75,500 since July of last year and has raised more than $10,000 in contributions. That has allowed her campaign to spend nearly $75,000 so far. She reported more than $15,000 in cash on hand in her most recent report. All candidates were required to file finance reports by Monday, Feb. 3, 30 days before the primary.

In contrast, Bradley has spent about $3,000 and reported $1,360.12 in cash on hand. His campaign had $2,400 in outstanding loans, according to his finance report.

A leader of the SBOE’s  far-right faction, Bradley won election to the board in 1996. SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, has given Bradley’s campaign… Read More

Is a Chuck E. Cheese manager qualified to serve on the State Board of Education in Texas? How about a candidate who opposes allowing people in “socialist higher education” to write history lessons?

Those were just two of the intriguing issues discussed at a recent forum for Republican candidates in the District 11 SBOE race in North Texas. Republican incumbent Pat Hardy faces two challengers — Eric Mahroum and Lady Theresa Thombs — in this spring’s GOP primary. All are from Fort Worth.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Bud Kennedy reports that Thombs, a self-described “international evangelist” and real estate agent, was on the attack during the forum. She accused Hardy, for example, of being a “lifelong Democrat” (which must be news to Hardy, who in the past has proudly told folks that she supported Barry Goldwater against LBJ in 1964).

But Thombs especially went after Mahroum, who appears to be backed by tea party activists. Kennedy writes that the audience didn’t seem to appreciate Thombs’ rhetoric:

First, she said Mahroum once fell behind on child support. The Tea Party-like Fort Worth 912 Project crowd groaned.

Then, calling him “inexperienced,” she said in an accusatory tone, “He… Read More