Texas Education Board Candidates Say: Government Shouldn't Be Responsible for Educating Kids!

by Dan Quinn

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 by religious-right groups to survey candidates for office across the country. Or at least Republican candidates — candidates in Democratic primaries aren’t featured in the Texas Values voter guide. Republican candidates unopposed in their GOP primary also weren’t surveyed.)

Bradley faces Rita Ashley in the District 7 Republican primary. Ashley apparently did not respond to the voter guide questionnaire — her answers are blank. (That didn’t seem to matter. The voter guide describes her as “somewhat liberal” anyway. Talk about “guiding” voters, right?) Mahroum and Thombs are challenging incumbent Pat Hardy. Hardy said she “strongly agrees” that government has a responsibility to make sure children are properly educated. She also “strongly disagrees” with siphoning tax dollars from public schools to private schools.

Bradley was among nine State Board of Education candidates who rejected government’s responsibility for educating Texas children in a voter guide for the November 2012 general election. Six of those candidates now serve on the board: Bradley; Chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio; Donna Bahorich, R-Houston; Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas; and Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo. Miller faces Democratic and Libertarian opponents in November but has no challenger in the GOP primary. The other board members, other than Bradley, are not up for re-election this year.

In rejecting government responsibility for ensuring that all children get an education, all of those candidates and board members are at odds with great Americans like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as well as Article 7, Section 1, of the Texas Constitution:

SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE OF SYSTEM OF PUBLIC FREE SCHOOLS. A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.