Gov. Rick Perry is in something of a Catch-22.
It started two years ago when he appointed dentist Don McLeroy to chair the State Board of Education. McLeroy is described by his many supporters as a “good and decent man,” and of that we can be sure.
McLeroy’s appointment came after the 80th Legislature adjourned, so he had to be confirmed during this year’s session. The confirmation failed in the Senate.
McLeroy’s supporters blame that on the fact that he’s a Christian. Records show that this Senate, and the House Public Education Committee in a July 16 hearing, were concerned not that he’s Christian but that McLeroy politicized Texas children’s education and led the board and the Texas education system into the spotlight. And what Texans and Americans saw in that light was a fairly grotesque parade of a few people — a majority faction of the board led by McLeroy — who listened to ideology instead of experts and were intent on imposing an antiquated education system on Texas children.
From that same elected board, Perry now must decide on a new chairman who, like McLeroy, will serve without scrutiny until the next legislative session, in 2011.
Perry’s decision is his Catch-22.
He probably won’t consider a Democrat. That leaves nine Republican possibilities. Seven are the radical members responsible for politicizing children’s education. They voted in lock step on a range of issues that individually and collectively have been widely seen by educators and lawyers as anything from illegal to unconstitutional to damaging children. Nominating from that pool might yield a different management style than McLeroy offered, but the ideology, intent and backward direction would remain the same.
The two remaining Republicans are conservative, but not extremists. Both District 11’s Pat Hardy of Fort Worth and District 15’s Bob Craig of Lubbock are well-qualified and would lead Texas public education in the right direction. In contrast to the radical members, they would be responsive to the changing educational needs that the future demands as well as to the rich diversity of children in our population.
Although Hardy has been mentioned as a nominee by senators, she’s recommending Craig.
Craig, an attorney, is a logical choice. He’s served on the board since 2002 and before that served on the Lubbock school board for 14 years. Craig is a “good and decent man,” but in contrast to McLeroy, his voting record and conciliatory demeanor show him to be a rational, uniting public education supporter. He listens to educators and experts. He respects the opinions of others. He votes in the interest of all children.
It’s clear that Perry could not make a better choice than Bob Craig. The Catch-22 is that by appointing a nonextremist, Perry risks losing support from his biggest donors, the religious right.
These donors see benefit in turning public education into religious education at taxpayer expense. They see benefit in keeping critical thinking out of the classroom. Their money is essential in his campaign against Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison in the next gubernatorial primary election.
If Perry appoints from the pool of radical rights, the voting public will be alerted that he’s sacrificing our children’s education and Texas’ future for his own political interests. So he’ll lose votes.
Money and ideology vs. public’s interest and, ultimately, its confidence. What a dilemma! Stay tuned.