Anyone who’s followed politics and cultural issues in Texas knows the Texas State Board of Education has been Ground Zero in the culture wars. It seems to be the place where the Left and Right butt heads beyond the legislative chambers and the decisions made there affect not only Texas school children but also kids in other states because of the Lone Star State’s influence in public education.
Among other things, the disciplines of science and history have drawn competing lobbies and national media attention in the last decade. Conservatives have held sway by a narrow margin. Now that SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) has cleared a Senate committee, her vote now goes to the full Senate for confirmation, likely on Tuesday (Feb. 19).
Cargill, known widely as a social conservative but also regarded as fair-minded to those to the left of her, needs a two-thirds majority. According to the Austin American-Statesman, she was cautiously praised during the committee hearing by Austin Democrat Sen. Kirk Watson even though he quizzed her on her views of intelligent design and other things.
Thomas Ratliff, a Republican SBOE member who is widely considered a moderate on the board, voiced his support for Cargill, even though he acknowledged the two have ideological differences.
As is par of the course, Cargill was criticized as having an agenda to push intelligent design in science classrooms by Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, a liberal group founded in 1996 by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to counter the “religious right.”
Texas Freedom Network has a dogged lobbying presence at the state education building and at SBOE meetings. Conservatives may hold the voter majority in our state, but TFN is loud and squeaky.
Gov. Perry’s nominee in the last session, Lampasas Republican Gail Lowe, didn’t make it out of Senate nominations committee. Cargill was the next choice and served as SBOE chair during the last session.
The Texas SBOE is anything but boring, has wide influence on the future of Texas, yet seems to fly under the radar of many voters. Please prayer for our SBOE members. They have a tough and highly scrutinized job to do.