Two More Views of the SBOE Problem

The Texas Tribune, an online news site launched just last fall, has done a great job covering the disaster commonly called the State Board of Education. Two stories in the last few days are particularly revealing of the political agendas that corrupt the board’s job of ensuring that Texas students get a sound education.

Last Friday Tribune writer Abby Rapoport looked at the Republican runoff for the District 10 state board seat currently held by Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond. Dunbar announced last fall that she would not seek re-election and recruited State Republican Executive Committee member Brian Russell, an Austin attorney, to run for the seat. Russell finished just behind Marsha Farney of Georgetown in the March 2 primary.

Dunbar, as you will remember, called public education unconstitutional, “tyrannical” and “a subtly deceptive tool of perversion” in her 2008 book, One Nation Under God. She and other far-right culture warriors on the board regard anyone who disagrees with them, even fellow Republicans, as leftists who hate Christians. One of their targets has been Bob Craig, a Republican board member from Lubbock who last year opposed efforts to promote creationist arguments against evolution in science classrooms. Russell, not even on the board yet, already expresses his contempt for Craig:

“Bob Craig is not conservative. He’s a liberal on anyone’s spectrum except his own.”

Do you think that kind of rhetoric will lead to a good working relationship between the two Republicans? No, neither do we. We’ll note that Craig destroyed his far-right challenger in the March 2 GOP primary. Clearly, West Texas Republicans — hardly liberals — see Craig as their kind of conservative. And just as clear is that Russell shares the combative, intolerant approach of Dunbar and other far-right board members who see everyone else as an implacable enemy.

Then on Monday Tribune writer Brian Thevenot looked at last week’s complaint by Gail Lowe, the state board’s far-right chairwoman, that the news media has supposedly misreported the board’s deletion of Thomas Jefferson from world history standards. We have already explained why Lowe’s defense of that move is off the mark. Thevenot doesn’t have much patience for Lowe’s complaints either, noting that some board members “obfuscate as often as inform”:

“By ignoring the context of the [motion to remove Jefferson] in its release, the board essentially committed the same infraction of incompleteness that they accuse the unnamed media of committing. And that’s a pattern with many board members: making controversial changes without explaining their reasons, then carping at the media for alleged misinterpretations.”

Both the Rapoport and Thevenot pieces are good reads for anyone interested in how the far right has turned the board into a dysfunctional, highly politicized mess. Read them here and here.

5 thoughts on “Two More Views of the SBOE Problem

  1. I am recommended both my son, who has three children in the Frisco ISD and his sister who has another three in the same system to remove them if the Frisco ISD allows such BS to enter their school district. Personally, I am so fed up with the true-believer “Red Staters” and their assault on everything I hold dear, I will be moving from Texas ASAP. This state government is beginning to make me constantly sick to my stomach. After spending 7-years in this muck, I’m headed back to the east coast where I belong.

  2. TFN –

    In reality, is there anything that can actually be done to roll these changes back? While we can put as much public light on this as we want, but it’s pretty clear that the SBOE will approve these changes at their May meeting, no matter what happens.

    Can the legislature step in before it’s too late? A court challenge (seems unlikely)?

    Can anything realistically be done?


    1. Eric,
      It’s critical that concerned Texans contact their local legislators. The Legislature meets again in January and almost certainly will consider new bills to rein in the board’s authority. In addition, elections to several key board seats are contested this November. Both the Legislature and voters can help determine how these new standards are implemented in classrooms. Click here for more about what you can do.

  3. I would like to see one (or a number of united parents) claim legal standing and contest the science TEKS in federal court as being religiously motivated, thus inserting not just a religious perspective, but a single, narrow, sectarian, Christian fundamentalist religious perspective into the science TEKS. The true motivations of the Texas SBOE members who passed this crap are registered in all sorts of media outlets—especially those of the loud ones like Dunbar and McLeroy. Even a conservative Republican judge like John Jones would be able to clearly and immediately see the through to the religious INTENT that went into the science TEKS. I would like to see Dunbar trying to weasel her way out of this in a real court of law, with a Harvard JD judge, on the basis of some weird, half-baked legal theory generated in a two-bit law school like the ones at Regent University and Liberty University. Just sayin’

  4. I’ve said it elsewhere in various postings related to this matter…. the book publishers need to stand up to to SBOE and say, in one voice, “We won’t print the crap you’re trying to sell.” Tell TX to print its own damn books and let the rest of this nation get on with the business of educating its children instead of indoctrinating them in Christianity (and a particularly virulent and repugnant version of Christianity in my mind).