2:50 p.m. – It looks like the Texas Senate is about to begin discussion of nominations, including Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education. You can watch the Webcast here or follow along on TFN Insider.
2:55 - Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, moves to sever McLeroy from the nominations list. The request is granted, and the Senate now votes to confirm the entire nominations list except for McLeroy.
2:57 – Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, rises to speak for McLeroy. Sen. Jackson basically reads through McLeroy’s resume and then moves for his confirmation.
3:00 – Sen. Van de Putte rises to speak against McLeroy’s confirmation. She notes that she is calling for the rejection of a nomination for the first time in her legislative career: “He’s a decent man. He’s a good man. My opposition to his position as chair has nothing to do with this man of faith and this man, I think, of internal courage and this veteran. My opposition to the chairman of our State Board of Education has to do with his management and leadership style. . . . We’ve been amazed by the divisiveness and the dsyfunctionality of the board.”
3:03 – Sen. Van de Putte: Under McLeroy’s leadership, the state board “has become the laughingstock of the nation.”
3:06 – Sen. Van de Putte goes through a long list of problems that have plagued the state board under McLeroy’s leadership, including divisive “culture war” battles, official actions in violation of state law and disregard for the work of educators and specialists.
3:11 - Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso rises in opposition to McLeroy’s confirmation. This has nothing to do, Sen. Shapleigh says, with discrimination against McLeroy’s religious views. He talks about businesspeople who are so concerned by the direction of the board — and especially its hostility to science — that they are considering leaving Texas for better schools.
3:13 – Sen. Shapleigh brings up McLeroy’s endorsement of a book that says parents who want their kids to learn about evolution are “monsters,” scientists are “atheists,” and clergy who see no conflict between science and faith are “morons.” The senator recounts various board train wrecks, including the sabotaging of nearly three years of work by teachers and specialists to revise the state’s language arts standards. And he notes a particularly troubling quote from McLeroy: “Scientific consensus means nothing.”
3:16 – These speeches are no less than a scathing indictment of the antics of the state board under McLeroy’s chairmanship.
3:18 – Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, rises in opposition to McLeroy’s confirmation: “This is not about partisanship. Please forget about the shouting and bickering that have surrounded this nomination. . . . This is about his leadership as chair.” “This is not about what divides us. It’s about what should unite us. Education is the great bridge for all of our people.” Watson says it is entirely appropriate for faith to guide the decisions of lawmakers, and he quotes the Bible: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Under this board, however, “education has become endlessly and hopelessly divisive.” McLeroy “has embraced the controversy and deepened the divisions.” “There is a lack of credibility in this board under Mr. McLeroy that’s undermining the institution of education.” Watson decries the “endless culture wars” that have plagued the board and its work.
3:25 – Sen. Watson: “Dr. McLeroy stands proudly by his notion that education is so important that it needs to be politicized. Well, I say that education is far too important to be little more than a front in ideological, political and cultural battles.” Sen. Watson has been very eloquent. It’s well worth your time to listen to the whole speech on the video archive.
3:26 – Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, rises in opposition to McLeroy’s confirmation. “His faith has very little to do with anybody’s opposition to him. The fact of the matter is we haven’t done our job concerning the State Board of Education.” Sen. Ellis decries the failure of the Legislature to pass legislation reforming the state board this year. “Dr. McLeroy isn’t the only problem on the State Board of Education.” “We ought to reform how people are selected to go on the State Board of Education.” “It’s embarrassing to hear what people (outside Texas) have to say about our State Board of Education.” Sen. Ellis suggests that Gov. Rick Perry should not have forced this vote — he should have permitted McLeroy to withdraw without having to face a vote.
3:34 – Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, rises to support McLeroy’s nomination. Ogden is McLeroy’s senator. Sen. Ogden says the descriptions he has heard of McLeroy are wrong. “There is a certain amount of innuendo” in the criticism of Ogden, to some degree “it’s a slur.” To suggest that criticism in the national press is a reason not to confirm him is “ridiculous.” Sen. Ogden vouches for McLeroy’s qualifications and criticizes the quality of the arguments against him. “He has a better scientific background that most of us” because of his bachelor’s of science degree in engineering and he’s a doctor of dentistry.
3:37 – Wow. Now Sen. Ogden veers into some intersting territory. “A theory is just a theory. They are not irrefutable facts of nature.” We are actually seeing arguments on the floor of the Texas Senate about the nature of scientific theories. Sen. Ogden dismisses criticism that McLeory doesn’t accept the theory of evolution or the science of global warming. McLeroy is not on the fringes of science and historical thought, Ogden says, because the history of science includes the questioning of theories.
3:42 – Sen. Ogden: He’s qualified, and he’s been duly elected. “I think Texas is watching here because I think that whether intention or not, there will be a perception among a significant percent of Texans . . . that we are imposing a religious test. . . .” The perception is “if you are conservative, if you believe in the infallibility . . . of the Bible, you need not apply.”
3:45 – Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, rises to speak in favor of McLeroy’s confirmation. Religion is foundational to education, he argues. “Why do we care” what the rest of the country says, Sen. Patrick asks. This is about politics if the final vote is a straight party vote, Democrats vs. Republicans.
Good heavens. Sen. Patrick says he didn’t come to the Senate today already decided how he would vote on McLeroy’s confirmation. Yeah, right.
Patrick calls the arguments against McLeroy “glittering generalities.” “If this isn’t about evolution, if this isn’t about what the Bible teaches, what is this about?” Sen. Patrick says he is among those who say, “In God we trust.” He asks: “In God We trust is good for sometimes,” but not in science? “Members, do not come here with a closed mind to vote against him” or to vote for him.
3:50 – Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, speaks for McLeroy’s confirmation. He doubts arguments that rejection of McLeroy isn’t about religion. “This is an inquisition.”
Once again, we see social conservatives using faith as a weapon to bludgeon their opponents. Despicable.
3:52 – Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, speaks in favor of McLeroy’s confirmation. Short statement.
3:54 – Sen. Mario Gallegos, Jr., D-Houston, speaks against McLeroy’s confirmation. “Common sense should prevail here. . . . Look what this nominee says, what he thinks. Is this nominee who you really want to lead the education of the children of Texas?” (Not sure we got that quote entirely right.)
3:58 – The vote: 19 votes for his confirmation, 11 against. McLeroy’s confirmation fails. We will get a list of how senators voted ASAP.
UPDATE: The final vote was entirely along party lines. All Senate Republicans voted for confirmation, while 11 Democrats voted against. Democratic Sen. Lucio was present but did not vote.