At least 10 out of 27 Republicans seeking election to the State Board of Education (SBOE), which oversees public education across Texas, say they don’t agree that “it is the government’s responsibility to be sure children are properly educated.” Of 13 Republicans responding to a candidate survey sent out by a collection of religious-right groups, three said they “disagree” with that statement, while another seven said they “strongly disagree.”
Eight Republican candidates in the May 29 SBOE primaries didn’t respond to the survey. Six candidates who are unopposed in their GOP primaries did not get the questionnaire. Just three Republicans affirmed the importance of public education in Texas. The religious-right groups that sponsored the survey (all of which are nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations) didn’t question Democratic candidates.
Here’s what Article 7 of the Texas Constitution says about government’s role in education (emphasis added):
“A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”
The candidate survey was part of voter guide put together by three Texas-based religious-right groups and the American Family Association (AFA), a Mississippi-based organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group. Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked the AFA to organize his prayer extravaganza in Houston last August, an event that occurred just a week before the governor declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. The Texas groups involved in the voter guide project are Texas Eagle Forum, Heritage Alliance and Liberty Institute (the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family).
These groups also sent emails to far-right activists around the state, asking for volunteers to “grade” candidates’ responses to the survey questions. According to information provided online along with the summaries of candidate responses, candidate “grades” were also based on such things as legislative voting records, campaign donation history, statements on campaign websites and endorsements from “conservative and liberal groups.” The graders apparently also took into consideration other candidates a particular candidate’s donors gave money to. But much of that additional data isn’t included in the online voter guide. You just have to trust the judgment of the graders.
The “voter guides,” along with the “grades” given to candidates, are available here.
Of the 13 Republicans who responded to the candidate survey, 12 also said they “agree” or “strongly agree” that “free market competition for education dollars, rather than a government monopoly, would create a better education for all students.” (One replied “neutral.”) Supporters of school vouchers use that argument to call for diverting tax dollars from public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools.
Among the other statements on which candidates were asked to state their agreement or disagreement:
Human life begins at conception and deserves legal protection at every stage until natural death.
Biology textbooks which do not teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution should be rejected by the Board.
I support school counseling or teaching about homosexuality.
I support displaying the Ten Commandments in public school buildings.
Any teaching to children on sex education in public schools must include all contraceptive methods, and should not show preference to abstinence.
The summaries of candidate responses comes with the following disclaimer:
Expenses related to grading paid for by Heritage Alliance.
Nothing on this site is authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
Heritage Alliance does not support or oppose candidates; iVoterGuide.com should not be construed as support for or opposition to candidates.
All of the eight Republican candidates who didn’t respond to the questionnaires got low grades, in most cases either an F or a D.
The following SBOE candidates got the highest grades in their contested GOP primaries:
- Veronica Anzaldua, Corpus Christi, District 2 (C)
- Ken Mercer, San Antonio, District 5 (incumbent) (A)
- David Bradley, Beaumont, District 7 (incumbent) (A+)
- Barbara Cargill, The Woodlands, District 8 (incumbent) (A+)
- Randy Stevenson, Tyler, District 9 (A)
- Jeff Fleece, Liberty Hill, District 10 (A)
- Gail Spurlock, Richardson, District 12 (A)
- Gail Lowe, Lampasas, District 13 (incumbent) (A)
- Marty Rowley, Amarillo, District 15, (B)
That appears to be the religious-right’s slate of favored candidates in contested Republican primaries for the State Board of Education in Texas. Rowley was the only candidate from that list who “agreed” with government’s responsibility to educate Texas children. Rowley joined most of the other candidates who expressed opposition to abortion; agree that the state board should reject biology textbooks that don’t include so-called “weaknesses” of evolution; disagree with “counseling or teaching” about homosexuality; agree with displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools; and oppose teaching about contraception in sex education classes.
You can find a listing of SBOE candidates along with district data and other election news and information at tfn.org/sboe2012.