Texas, unfortunately, doesn’t have a monopoly on education policymakers who would rather indoctrinate classrooms with their political ideology than actually educate students. Until Tuesday, residents of one of the major school districts in Colorado faced the same situation, but they did something about it. They went to the polls and ousted three board “reformers” who were causing the problem.
Texas voters will have a similar opportunity next year, but, as in Colorado, it will require a committed effort by educators and parents to put school children first in elections.
The problems in Colorado began with the election two years ago of three new members to the Jefferson County school board, the governing body of one of the state’s largest school districts. The three ran on a so-called “reform” platform that, as it turned out, included a misguided effort to tie teacher pay to student performance and direct more funds to charter schools at the potential expense of neighborhood public schools.
According to the Huffington Post, the three also supported the idea of rewriting a history curriculum to emphasize “positive aspects of the United States” – including individual rights, free enterprise and respect for authority – rather than issues that they believed encouraged “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
It sounds as if they found the long, often bloody struggle for civil and human rights for all Americans just too negative for a history textbook, much as a right-wing bloc on the State Board of Education in Texas found it too difficult to acknowledge in our curriculum standards that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War and that hostile, racial discrimination was a major deterrent to civil rights in Texas and the South for decades after the war.
History is so messy, isn’t it? But that is all the more reason for students to be given an unvarnished opportunity to understand it and for political ideologues to get out of their way.
Although the Colorado board didn’t change the curriculum, parents and educators – including teacher unions — had heard and seen enough. They organized a recall election, and the three would-be “reformers” were sent packing.
Texas voters can’t petition for recall elections, but we do have regular elections, and eight members of the State Board of Education will be on the ballot next year, beginning with the March 1 party primaries.
Not all are ideologues. Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, a moderate Republican in District 9, is a strong supporter of quality education in public schools. Some of the others, though, are motivated by ideology, notably Ken Mercer of San Antonio in District 5, an active member of the right-wing bloc that assaulted history when curriculum standards were rewritten a few years ago.
Early next year, TSTA will endorse State Board of Education candidates who actually are pro-education. But first things first.
SBOE members are elected from 15 large single-member districts, which means most Texans don’t even know who their State Board of Education members are. Your member may even live in a city a few hundred miles from your home. Find out who represents you on the SBOE by clicking on the link below, filling in your address and choosing the State Board of Education option. Then do some research and wait for TSTA’s endorsements.