As we expected, today’s Texas State Board of Education meeting provided at least some clues about whether the new board is likely to refocus its work on education instead of politics. Some clues were clearer others.
On the positive side was the election of two moderates as board officers: Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, as vice chair and Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, as secretary. Board members chose both over nominees from the board’s far-right faction: Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, for vice chair and Terri Leo, R-Spring, for secretary. The votes seemed to highlight the board’s new ideological divide, with six right-wingers — Mercer; Leo, Garza; chairwoman Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; David Bradley, R-
Beaumont Buna; and Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands — voting as a bloc. (Garza actually argued that Berlanga was an inappropriate choice as secretary because she happened to be late to today’s meeting and therefore showed that she isn’t “punctual” enough for him. Seriously? How petty. Another board member pointed out that Berlanga, an attorney who has served on the board since the early 1980s, had been in court earlier in the day, making her late in getting to Austin.)
On the other hand, board members didn’t make many substantive changes to board operating rules. But there were some encouraging signs. For example, a number of board members — including several new ones — indicated their desire that the board give more deference to real scholarship when making decisions about textbook adoptions. Makes sense to us, of course. Yet even that sentiment brought objections from some board members whose arguments vaguely echoed Don McLeroy’s infamous “somebody’s gotta stand up to experts” declaration two years ago. (Garza used the moment to insist that there is no scholarly consensus on the existence of global warming. In fact, the existence of global warming isn’t in doubt. The cause of global warming/climate change remains under some debate, although even there the scientific evidence increasingly points to human activity as a cause.)
It’s unclear whether and when the board will consider any changes to its process for revising curriculum standards over the next two years. We’ll keep you updated.