Turn Texas Universities over to the SBOE?!?!

by Dan Quinn

It’s bad enough that politicians on the Texas State Board of Education have decided that promoting their own personal agendas is more important than the education of millions of children in public schools. Now a member of the Texas House of Representatives wants to give oversight of the state’s college and universities to the SBOE!

State Rep. Fred Brown, R-College Station, wants to abolish the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. His plan would turn higher education over to the Texas Education Agency and the SBOE.

As originally filed earlier this month, Brown’s House Bill 104 actually would have stripped the SBOE of much of its authority over textbooks and, to an extent, curriculum. But now Brown is saying that was a mistake and that he intends only to abolish the Coordinating Board. He wants to change the bill to protect the SBOE’s current authority and let that heavily politicized panel oversee colleges and universities, too.

Good grief. The SBOE has already passed retro science and social studies curriculum standards that turn the clock back more than a century for K-12 education. And the same board turns nearly every textbook adoption and curriculum issue into a divisive and embarrassing “culture war” battle. Now Brown wants to give SBOE members the opportunity to wreck higher education, too? Simply put, that would be a clear example of legislative malpractice.

Br0wn says abolishing the Coordinating Board would save money in tough budgetary times. Yet the Coordinating Board’s administrative budget is tiny compared to the budget deficit lawmakers face in January.

Keep in mind something else: while the SBOE has been undermining science education in elementary and high schools, the Coordinating Board has been protecting it at the college level. In 2008 the Coordinating Board wisely rejected an application from the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research (ICR) to offer master’s degrees in science education in Texas. If that decision had been up to the politicians who sit on the SBOE, today the state would recognize master’s degrees based on the ICR’s junk science — junk science that says dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans just a few thousand years ago. Even worse, the ICR’s “graduates” would be trying to use those junk science degrees to teach in elementary and high schools!

If lawmakers want to save money by abolishing the Coordinating Board and putting elementary, high school and higher education under one umbrella, maybe that’s worth a discussion. Perhaps tough times like these require tough choices like that. We would like, at a minimum, to hear from education experts about the wisdom of such an approach. But giving a deeply dysfunctional and heavily politicized SBOE any additional oversight — especially over colleges and universities — is playing with fire and should be flatly rejected. Then we can work on keeping Texas education from being a punch line in a national joke.