Texas Ed Board Member Asks: What Was SBOE Chair Cargill Up To?

by Dan Quinn

Our report that Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, appeared to be interfering on Wednesday with the independent teams reviewing proposed new biology textbooks became a topic of discussion at a state board workshop session today.

As the session was about to end, SBOE member Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio, expressed her concerns about board members trying to influence the work of the review teams. She also asked for clarification on what Cargill had done and the board’s rules regarding members’ contact with the teams. Those were entirely reasonable concerns and good questions.

Cargill expressed surprise that anyone would suggest she was trying to influence the review teams. All she was doing, she said, was saying hello to the reviewers and thanking them for their service. She also invited anyone with concerns to ask her directly. So we’re taking her up on that invitation and are forwarding our questions and concerns. We will report back on what we hear.

But we think it’s important to correct some misinformation from today’s SBOE meeting. Contrary to what board members were told, the work of the review teams is not “open” to the public. Observers are directed to designated areas of the ballroom from which they can see the review teams. But those areas are too far away for observers to actually see or hear what the review teams are actually discussing. This is troubling because publishers are making changes to their textbooks based on objections from those reviewers.

We applaud the willingness the reviewers to volunteer their time to take part in this process, by the way. But we are concerned that a number of them are using their positions to promote an ideological point of view, not sound science. Whether they are successful won’t be known for a few weeks. But the alarm bells are still ringing.