It appears that Texas lawmakers are beginning to look at ways to rein in an out-of-control State Board of Education. Today state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, pre-filed a bill for the coming legislative session that would make state board elections nonpartisan.

Recent controversies make clear the need to take ideology and partisanship out of races for the state board, Rep. Howard said in a press release announcing her proposed legislation, House Bill 420:

The current system is obviously not working as well as our students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers deserve. SBOE districts are some of the geographically largest districts in the state, yet these races attract little public attention and candidates have a hard time raising money to communicate their message.  Voters go to the polls armed with minimal information on the issues and end up casting their ballot based on party affiliation.  It’s time to encourage candidates to run more independently so voters can make informed decisions.

Rep. Howard, who won election to the House in 2006 in part because of her strong support for public education, pointed to extreme partisan and ideological statements made recently by state board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond. As TFN Insider readers… Read More

Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, made news last month when she charged that President-elect Barack Obama “truly sympathizes” with enemies out to destroy America. Now guess what Dunbar has to say about the public education system she helps govern.

From a Texas Freedom Network press release today:

In her book, One Nation Under God (Onward, 2008), Dunbar (on p. 100) calls public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” She charges that the establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even “tyrannical” because it threatens the authority of families, granted by God through Scripture, to direct the instruction of their children (p. 103) Dunbar, who has home-schooled her children and sent them to private schools, bases that charge on her belief that “the underlying authority for our constitutional form of government stems directly from biblical precedents.” (p. xv)

“Even if you question the accuracy of my constitutional interpretation as proof of the inappropriateness of a state-created, tax-payer supported school system, still the Scriptures bear witness to such an institution’s lack of proper authority in the life of the Christian family,” Dunbar writes (p. 102).

TFN President Kathy Miller questioned why… Read More

It appears that Texas State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-BeaumontBuna, is hoping religious bigotry will help him win re-election. The 12-year incumbent is circulating a flier that suggests his Democratic opponent, Laura Ewing of Friendswood, wants to — pass the smelling salts, please — teach social studies students about Islam. The flier explains that Ewing joined other social studies educators on a trip to Africa and India and asks: “Do you know what the Democrat for State Board of Education supports?” The flier implies that Ewing — that evildoer — was using the trip to help develop a curriculum that includes the study of Islamic history and culture. Actually, she was. The state’s curriculum standards for social studies — passed by the state board shortly after Bradley joined it in 1997 — require that students learn about the world’s major religions and cultures. And the trip, as Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg explains today, was made possible through the support of the state’s Republican governor, Rick Perry. Falkenberg writes:

It’s easy to dismiss Bradley’s campaign handout as dirty campaigning with an unusually bigoted bent. . . . But the campaign piece represents more… Read More