Will the SBOE Get Called into the Principal’s Office?

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It appears that Texas lawmakers are beginning to look at ways to rein in an out-of-control State Board of Education. Today state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, pre-filed a bill for the coming legislative session that would make state board elections nonpartisan.

Recent controversies make clear the need to take ideology and partisanship out of races for the state board, Rep. Howard said in a press release announcing her proposed legislation, House Bill 420:

The current system is obviously not working as well as our students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers deserve. SBOE districts are some of the geographically largest districts in the state, yet these races attract little public attention and candidates have a hard time raising money to communicate their message.  Voters go to the polls armed with minimal information on the issues and end up casting their ballot based on party affiliation.  It’s time to encourage candidates to run more independently so voters can make informed decisions.

Rep. Howard, who won election to the House in 2006 in part because of her strong support for public education, pointed to extreme partisan and ideological statements made recently by state board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond. As TFN Insider readers know, Dunbar has charged that President-elect Barack Obama “truly sympathizes” with enemies who want to destroy America. Dunbar also writes in a new book that the public education system she helps govern is “tyrannical,” “unconstitutional” and a “tool of perversion.”

Dunbar’s remarks have sparked a firestorm of protest, with newspapers, commentators and others calling for her resignation from the board. The state board decides what more than 4.6 million Texas children learn in their public schools.

Under Rep. Howard’s bill, candidates for the state board would no longer be able to hide behind party labels. All candidates would run as independents, and the contests would be featured as separate nonpartisan races on the general election ballot. Rep. Howard believes such elections would attract more attention from voters and help them learn more about the positions candidates take on important issues.

The idea that Texans — if provided with information on the issues — would elect someone who has publicly declared the state’s education system “unconstitutional” and “tyrannical” is absurd. We value our children’s education too highly.

HB 420 is part of a package of reform legislation Rep. Howard is proposing. She also wants to transfer authority over the Permanent School Fund from the state board to an independent body. State board members are not required to have any financial expertise even though they are charged with managing a fund that currently has about $17.5 billion.

The board’s role in overseeing the Permanent School Fund has generated controversy in the past. In 2002, for example, far-right board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, was indicted with two others (no longer on the board) for violating the state’s law on open meetings by privately meeting with financial advisors to discuss the fund.

Sources tell TFN Insider that other state lawmakers might offer legislation that would severely restrict the state board’s authority over setting curriculum standards and adopting textbooks. For many years publishers have been forced to censor textbook content because of political and ideological objections of board members.

The 81st Session of the Texas Legislature opens in January.

5 Responses to “Will the SBOE Get Called into the Principal’s Office?”

  1. jdg Says:

    I hope they severely limit the SBOE! Maybe the college board can be in charge and say what textbook we can use so that we can truly prepare our student for a world-class education.

  2. eevas Says:

    How about experts in the field to decide the curriculum. Scientist for Science class. English professors for English. Mathematicians for Math class?!?!?!

  3. africangenesis Says:

    I hope they eliminate the SBOE and leave textbook selection to those who will have to use them. Central planners have ruined the auto industry, it is only the total lack of rigor and accountability in a social science that gives central planners the cover to claim they are adding value to an even more complex nonlinear activity like education.

  4. Ben Says:

    I favor Donna Howard’s idea. I’m sure a lot of people do.

  5. Larry Fafarman Says:

    –Recent controversies make clear the need to take ideology and partisanship out of races for the state board, Rep. Howard said in a press release announcing her proposed legislation, House Bill 420:

    “Voters go to the polls armed with minimal information on the issues and end up casting their ballot based on party affiliation.” —

    Is there any evidence that this was a significant factor in the recent defeat of the challengers of two of the board’s supporters of the “strengths and weaknesses” language?

    House Bill 420 says, “A candidate’s name for the board may appear on the ballot only as an independent candidate,” and that’s OK. However, the following provision of House Bill 420 is unconstitutional: “A political party may not make a nomination for the office of State Board of Education.” That provision in effect denies political parties the freedom to express themselves by endorsing candidates.

    –Sources tell TFN Insider that other state lawmakers might offer legislation that would severely restrict the state’s authority over setting curriculum standards and adopting textbooks.–

    Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius also tried to seize power from the elected state board of education, and she did not succeed — see
    http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/oct/14/ed_board_chairman_sebelius_elitist/

    The demagogic Gov. Sebelius had the gall to compare the Kansas board of education to Fred Phelps’ “god hates fags” church.

    I am against centralized control of education, but I feel that so long as there is centralized control of education by means of a state board of education, the board should be directly accountable to the public through direct elections.

    Also, why do you Darwinists think that taking authority away from the elected board is going to positively prevent “creationists” from controlling public education?

    eevas said (December 18, 2008 at 1:49 pm) —
    –How about experts in the field to decide the curriculum. Scientist for Science class. English professors for English. Mathematicians for Math class?!?!?! —

    Because the question of whether to teach the “weaknesses,” “limitations,” “criticisms,” etc. of scientific theories does not require any scientific expertise to answer!!!!!!

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