School & District Management

Texas Board’s Chairman Ousted, and Outspoken

By Sean Cavanagh — June 09, 2009 1 min read
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Don McLeroy’s days as chairman of the Texas state board of education appear to be over.

But his tenure as a board member is not, and he vows to be just as active, if not more so, in shaping policy as one of 15 panel members as he was when he wore the chairman’s crown.

The dentist from Bryan was ousted from the post May 28 when, because of Democratic opposition, he failed to get the two-thirds majority from the state Senate needed to reappoint him, as had been requested by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

The ex-chairman, whom Gov. Perry appointed to that seat in 2007, had drawn criticism during the Texas board’s recent approval of science standards that some critics fear will undermine the teaching of evolutionary theory in schools. (“Retooled Texas Standards Raise Unease Among Science Groups,” April 8, 2009.)

Mr. McLeroy is an elected member of the panel whose term ends Jan. 1, 2011, and thus will remain on the board. Board member Lawrence A. Allen Jr. will serve as acting chairman until Mr. Perry appoints someone else, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Democratic legislators said the board under Mr. McLeroy had become fixated on divisive cultural issues. Mr. McLeroy was disappointed, but not surprised.

“I got labeled as controversial. I don’t see it that way,” Mr. McLeroy said in an interview. The evolution uproar “was not started by us on the evolution skeptics’ side—it was on the evolutionists’ side.”

The evolution issue is likely to emerge again in Texas later this year, as the board reviews science textbooks for state adoption. Mr. McLeroy said he would fight to ensure that texts include language asking that student “analyze and evaluate” aspects of biology, language that some scientists said could weaken teaching of evolution.

Mr. McLeroy said he would press for “scientific explanations” of evolution in the texts, and predicted “the explanations will be weak, because I haven’t seen any strong explanations.”

Despite the views of his detractors, Mr. McLeroy said his style had been to remain deferential on many issues as chairman. He said he would be more vocal now.

“Now I get to enter the debate,” he said. “I look forward to that.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week

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