Texas Board Chairman Ousted

By Sean Cavanagh — May 29, 2009 1 min read
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Several Texas lawmakers have already made their dissatisfaction known with the performance of the state board of education and the recent saga over evolution’s place in the state standards. Now members of the state Senate have succeeded in blocking the reappointment of the board’s controversial chairman, Don McLeroy.

McLeroy, a dentist from College Station who joined the board in 2007, pushed for standards that encouraged more criticism of evolution and many core components of the biological theory. As self-described creationist, according to media reports (see this story from the Austin American-Statesman) he played a major role in the 15-member state board’s recent revision of the state standards. Some of the more controversial language, which called for students to understand evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses” was removed from the document, though other aspects of it have stirred unease within the scientific community, as I reported a while ago.

McLeroy’s reappointment to the board by Republican Gov. Rick Perry was blocked by the state Senate, according to the Associated Press. The vote was actually 19-11 in favor of keeping him, but he needed a two-thirds majority, and Democrats in the upper chamber were opposed.

Republican lawmakers quoted in the story blasted the opposition, saying, in effect, that McLeroy was being punished for his conservative Christian views. But Sen. Kirk Watson, a Democrat from Austin, said lawmakers, and the public, believe the board has strayed from focusing on classrooms under McLeroy.

“Whether they agree with McLeroy or not, Texans simply cannot have faith in this board when it is led by a man who has so enthusiastically embraced his role in these endless culture wars,” he said.

Whether McLeroy’s ouster represents a shift in political and public sentiment on evolution, or simply an isolated and unfair act is a matter of opinion. What’s yours?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.