Texas Board of Education: More Drama Than the Governor's Race

Increasingly, the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary has all of the suspense of Groundhog Day (the day, not the movie). If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, ...
by | February 25, 2010

Increasingly, the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary has all of the suspense of Groundhog Day (the day, not the movie).

If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of winter. If Rick Perry can't crack 50%, we get six more weeks of the Republican primary. But, regardless of the exact timing, spring is coming. No chubby marmot can change that. And, barring some unexpected turn of events, Perry will be the Republican nominee -- only the exact timing is still seriously in doubt. By May, it won't matter whether Phil saw his shadow and, except perhaps for the impact on his campaign warchest, it won't matter whether Perry had to endure a runoff.

As a result, I've been looking for other Texas elections with a bit more drama to follow on Tuesday. The most consequential ones, it appears, are for the state Board of Education. Here's the Houston Chronicle:

The 15-member board has been narrowly divided. Seven so-called "social conservatives" routinely vote as a bloc when it comes to questioning evolution, adding snippets of history to textbooks -- or deleting them -- and emphasizing a "back to basics" reading curriculum.

With one more reliable ally, the social conservatives would gain control of the board, which develops curriculum standards and chooses textbooks for the state's 4.7 million public schoolchildren and oversees the $22 billion Permanent School Fund.

But they also could lose up to three seats, depending on how challengers fare against Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, and Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, and the outcome of jousting for the open seat of retiring Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, whose district stretches from Austin to the Houston suburbs in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.

McLeroy's race is the most interesting one. He's a creationist who is facing a more moderate Republican, Thomas Ratliff.

It's striking how central evolution is to this race. This is from McLeroy's Web site:

In science class , you--the grassroots--stood up to the left and their friends in the education science lobby and won a major victory for scientific integrity--a victory that has increased in importance with the recent scandal of the far-left's politicizing of global warming. New standards that scientifically question evolution, the origin of life, and climate science will ensure that science will not be "sold" to our children, but will be "taught" to them by examining the strengths and weaknesses of scientific explanations.

Here's what Ratliff has to say:

I believe the Bible tells us who created the Earth and why.  I believe science tells us when the Earth was created and how.  Neither is designed to tell the other story, therefore we shouldn't ask them to try.

I believe God created the Heavens and the Earth millions and millions of years ago.  I do not believe, as my opponent does, that the Earth is a mere few thousand years old, nor do I believe, as my opponent does, that dinosaurs and mankind lived at the same time.

Since there's no Democrat running for the seat, the primary is the election. In other words, Tuesday's election won't determine what happens for the next six weeks, but rather the next four years.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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