Heated Emails Point To Growing Divide In Texas Education Board Elections

July 16, 2012 5:17 a.m.

Updated: July 16, 11:58AM

During his two-year tenure on the Texas State Board of Education, George Clayton was widely considered one of the committee’s more discerning, moderate GOP members. He’s supported evolutionary theory, come out as gay, and presented, according to the Texas Freedom Network, “a voice of sanity” — all of which may explain why Clayton finished third in the Republican primary for his Dallas-area seat in late May.But, as unearthed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a series of recent emails show that Clayton, who will remain at his post until Jan. 1, won’t simply acquiesce his seat. Addressing Donna Garner, a well-known campaigner for the board’s creationist arm, Clayton reveals his write-in candidacy while slamming Gail Spurlock and Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, the two remaining candidates for the GOP nomination:

You and Gail [Spurlock] carry a Bible in one hand and a bag of stones in the other. If you have not figured it out yet, I will let you in. I plan to continue my campaign as a write in candidate in the November general election. It will be very high profile and, this time, with gloves off.

Garner’s response, to be fair, was laced with less ad hominem and maintained a focus on Spurlock’s credentials. But Clayton’s follow-up stood by his original email:

Donna, you are as big a fake as Gail. Gail has no college degree. She is not teacher certified. She has never taught in the public schools. She is a hard right wing agenda driven bigot. Her zeal for her political/religious agenda is dangeous.

All 15 seats on the SBOE are set to be contested across the state this fall, but Clayton’s seat is not the only one that could be won by the GOP’s hard-right arm. According to the TFN, the 27 Republican candidates who had initially submitted their candidacies for the open seats all received a questionnaire from a consortium of right-wing religious groups — including the American Family Association — that was set to determine the candidates’ views.

Ten of the respondents stated that they disagreed that “it is the government’s responsibility to be sure children are properly educated.” Eight abstained from response, and only three agreed with the assertion — which is, of course, constitutionally mandated.

While the results of the questionnaire are no longer available online, TFN also notes that all but one of the respondents believe that “free market competition for education dollars, rather than a government monopoly, would create a better education for all students.”

The group that sent the questionnaire then assigned grades to the respondents based on their responses. Four receiving high marks won their primaries, and Spurlock — whose more notable claims include the insistence that Pilgrims were, in fact, Communists — was awarded an “A.”

Meanwhile, the winners of the November election will also be working with a new Texas Education Commissioner, who is set to oversee the public education budget. A spokesman for Governor Rick Perry, who will appoint the new commissioner, said the decision is pending.

Perry’s history of Board appointees is, at best, checkered. In 2007, Rick Perry appointed Don McLeroy as chairman of the SBOE, allowing one of the most prominent Young Earth Creationists to determine what would be included in Texas’ textbooks.

McLeroy’s actions allowed him to become the star of the film The Revisionaries, detailing the contentious debate surrounding the once-a-decade rewrite of the state’s educational standards. Among McLeroy’s more notable stances include de-emphasizing evolution, stressing abstinence-only education, and averring that the Earth is, in actuality, but a few thousands of years old.

Ed Note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version that said Texas Gov. Rick Perry had appointed Don McLeroy to the SBOE in 1998. McLeroy was elected to the board in 1998, and Gov. Perry appointed him as chairman in 2007.

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