Senate Democrats may have ousted avowed creationist Gail Lowe as chairperson of the State Board of Education, but the move will do little to reduce the influence of social conservatives on the elected 15 member board.
Democrats control twelve of the 31 seats in the Texas Senate, but only eleven votes are needed to block a nomination. And all twelve Democrats were unwilling to confirm Lowe.
It was the second time Gov. Perry’s appointment for State Board of Education chair was blocked. Democratic Senators also prevented the confirmation of Bryan Republican Don McLeroy in 2009.
“It’s been my honor to have served for almost the last two years,” Lowe told KUT News by telephone from her publishing office at the Lampasas Dispatch Record. “The Democrats have worked to keep me from continuing, so I will remain an elected official and look forward to having more time to represent my constituents.”
She’ll have plenty of opportunities to advance those interests, as the State Board is set to tackle more controversial social issues in the months ahead. Science instructional materials are scheduled to be adopted this summer, setting up a showdown over how the theory of evolution should be taught in classrooms. Health curriculum standards will be revised over the next two years, which includes the minefield of sexual education in a state where 13 percent of births are by children aged 13 to 19.
At least one liberal watchdog is doubtful Lowe’s ouster will produce dramatic shifts in how the board governs the classroom standards it is responsible for writing.
“We still have a hardcore faction of ideologues on the board, who are determined to politicize and drag just about every issue into the culture wars,” Texas Freedom Network spokesman Dan Quinn told KUT News.
“That’s a big problem whether Gail Lowe is chair or not,” he said.