State Senate rejects school board chair

AUSTIN?After weeks of struggle between liberal and conservative groups over the confirmation for a second term of Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education, the state Senate on May 28 rejected McLeroy in a 19-11 vote, just shy of the needed two-thirds majority.

McLeroy and other conservatives on the elected board charged with curriculum standards for state public schools were maligned by those opposed to science standards approved in March that call for “evaluation and critique” of key tenets of evolution, drawing national news coverage and criticism from the science establishment.

Some of the opposition cited statements McLeroy made at the Bible church he attends in College Station as reasons to reject Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s nominee to serve as chairman a second term.

“Some Senators have made it clear that the New York Times, religious beliefs, and party affiliation are in control of deciding who serves as SBOE chairman,” wrote Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affairs for the Plano-based Free Market Foundation, on the foundation’s blog. “The message has been sent?if you have sincere religious beliefs, you need not apply to be chair of the State Board of Education.”

The foundation’s president, attorney Kelly Shackelford wrote “the comments about
McLeroy’s religion and the Senate vote” were “very disturbing?. We expect the Governor to nominate an SBOE Chair who is just as conservative as McLeroy, and therefore, representative of the people of Texas.”

Meanwhile, a group opposing McLeroy, the Texas Freedom Network, which bills itself as “a mainstream voice to counter the religious right,” released a statement through its director, Kathy Miller, stating: “Watching the state board the last two years has been like watching one train wreck after another. We had hoped that the Legislature would take more action to put this train back on the tracks, but clearly new leadership on the board was a needed first step. The governor should know that parents will be watching closely to see whether he chooses a new chairman who puts the education of their children ahead of personal and political agendas.”

McLeroy told the TEXAN he was very optimistic about the next chairman, yet to be nominated, and the future of the board, which he continues serve on as an elected member.

“The battle really arose because the opposition lost on the science curriculum,” McLeroy said of his being voted down. “I think it’s because we were able to get those things accomplished. They were doing it because of the success we had. I have no regrets.”

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