03 March 2010

Social Conservatives Reduced On Texas State Board Of Education

Houston Chronicle: Social conservatives could lose grip on board

The board of education has attracted national attention in recent years after efforts to diminish the teaching of evolution in public schools and fights over other so-called cultural war issues, including a Bible course curriculum.

The board has been narrowly divided, with seven socially conservative members routinely voting as a bloc and occasionally picking up another vote or two to gain a majority on the 15-member board.

Social conservative members and their supporters were hoping to gain an additional seat to give them a working majority. They needed to knock off member Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, in addition to holding their own seats. Craig, however, easily defeated Ector County School Board President Randy Rives in their GOP primary.

Controversial State Board of Education member Don McLeroy trailed in his re-election bid Tuesday while longtime incumbent Geraldine “Tincy” Miller also appeared headed for an upset primary defeat.

Republican Thomas Ratliff, son of former GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, held a narrow lead over McLeroy, one of the leaders of the board's social conservative faction.

Miller, R-Dallas, was trailing high school English teacher George Clayton in a Dallas-area contest. Miller is a former chairwoman and, at 26 years, the longest-serving member of the board.

In another key board race, Republicans Brian Russell and Marsha Farney headed for a runoff to replace retiring Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, for the District 10 seat that includes 16 counties from Brazoria and Fort Bend to Austin.

McLeroy served as chairman of the board until Senate Democrats blocked his confirmation last year on grounds that his strong religious beliefs interfered with his leadership. McLeroy, a Bryan dentist, calls himself “a young Earth creationist” who believes that people co-existed with dinosaurs on the planet less than 10,000 years ago. McLeroy is a leader among the seven social conservatives on the 15-member board.

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