I think a lot of us have been agonizing over our voting choices because we know what a huge difference they can make. Some of the issues people raise at Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) forums, such as Teacher Retirement System policies, aren’t things that SBOE determines, but SBOE members can voice the concerns of teachers. As a teacher myself, I understand the viewpoints of our public-school teachers. If people are wondering who to choose for SBOE or other races, I would recommend looking at the League of Women Voters Vote 411 guide.
For SBOE, you can see my answers in comparison to my opponent’s answers. I believe voters will find my answers more complete, detailed, and backed up by facts about the issues. My experience with teaching, curriculum development, and educational issues has spanned three decades, and I am a researcher and writer who recognizes what students can learn and how teachers should be free to teach the subject, not teach to the test. I believe my experience, training, contributions and expertise align closely with the demands of the State Board of Education. In addition, I have been working hard for a seat on the board for over a decade now, making progress with each election because of the relationships I’ve formed with District 5 constituents. This is the year when we have a real shot at winning, and I am prepared to hit the ground running, after attending meetings, following and researching board issues for all this time. I have the vision, experience and passion to transform the State Board of Education. I hope you’ll help me win in 2020!
Maybe because it was a gray day, or because the news around the world was so bad in so many ways, I was feeling a little down on Sunday. I was running out of signs and literature, and I found a big glossy ad from my opponent for SBOE in our mailbox. I decided instead of moping around, I would help my husband Pierre pull thistles and focus my mind on my role models—all the people who have inspired me and cheered me on, or shown strength in the face of seemingly impossible odds. I looked over at Pierre, working on his thistles, and I remembered that sunny summer day a decade ago, when he was riding his bicycle and a van pulled out of a driveway, smashing into him. At the time, I was teaching in Texas State’s study abroad program in England, where I awoke to a call from our daughter saying, “Don’t freak out, Mom, but Dad’s been in a bicycle accident and he’s going into surgery. He may not walk again.” British Air put me in first class when they learned about my situation, but I couldn’t even enjoy this luxury flight that seemed to last forever.
When I finally made it to Brackenridge hospital, I looked at Pierre’s bruised face as he smiled, mumbling, “I’ll be fine,” and I smiled back and said, yes, he would, but those were not my inner thoughts. Through the next forty-five days, he kept his positive attitude through painful therapy, while other patients around him were refusing to even get out of bed. He ended up winning a patient of the year award before he went back to teach at Texas Lutheran, first riding in a wheelchair, then using a walker, and finally graduating to a cane by the end of the fall semester. After watching him maintain his good humor through months of therapy, I could never again let myself be discouraged by any gray day. I’ve seen this same strength in others as well, and I keep these people in mind to inspire me. I think of our daughter Marisa, her face still puffy from jaw surgery, taking care of Pierre throughout his hospital stay, offering to postpone beginning her masters at University of Chicago, and then leaving—at our insistence—to go study where she knew no one. I think of our younger daughter, Thea, working as a nurse in a trauma unit in Asheville, North Carolina, calmly reassuring desperate people, even when she has to bring people back from the dead, sometimes quite literally.
I also think of all the people who have offered love and support through the years, with van rides for Pierre, pro bono legal help, and now that I’m running for State Board of Education, the dozens of friends and strangers who have helped in the past and continue to donate to my campaign, from five dollars given by people living on pensions to contributions in the thousands from musicians and philanthropists, some I’ve never even met, giving simply because they heard I would fight for education or the environment. Strangers have introduced themselves to me as supporters of education, and I’ve met people like Steven Apodaca, who is helping boost my web presence, reminding me to take pictures. I’ve had people from all over the district extend their hospitality, from Val and Steve in Kerrville to Gilberto “Chili” Ornales in Seguin, inviting me to free dinner at a LULAC banquet and getting his hands dirty putting together signs for me, promising to place them in front of the best supporter homes. Surrounded by an army of heroes like this, who give of themselves and cheerfully lend a hand to good causes every single day, I know the answer when people ask me why I’m running for SBOE again. How can I not? We must all keep on working for our community, our state, our country—one kind act at a time, one small gesture at a time—until we finally win.
I’ve never been an expert on the Super Bowl. I grew up on a farm in northern Indiana and went to such a small school that we didn’t have a football team. Basketball was king, my brother was a starter, so that was the only ball game I understood well. When my husband Pierre and I came to Texas, I had to catch up on football, especially when I became special assistant to President Jerry Supple and was asked to be “guest coach” at a football game. There I was on the field, trying to keep my eye on the action, scared someone was going to accidentally tackle me, and I couldn’t even keep track of where the ball was. I had to ask the Vice President for Student Affairs, Joanne Smith, to explain everything. I was no more qualified to be a real coach than many of the people on the Texas State Board of Education who direct our textbook and curriculum choices for a state which covers one in ten kids in the United States. The idea that non-teachers make these momentous choices based on their personal political beliefs or life experience is as absurd as it would be for me to coach a Super Bowl team.
Teaching, curriculum, and textbooks are complex subjects, and I’ve had
decades of experience with all three. As a candidate, writer and researcher, I have
continued to “keep my eye on the ball” when it comes to the State Board of Education
for years, I’ve analyzed charter schools, budget issues, and high-stakes testing in our
state. It doesn’t take a financial wizard to see that most decisions made in Texas
education come down to the legal term “Cui bono?” or who profits. Decision-makers
must not see students as cash cows. Education is an investment in our future, not a
place for people to favor companies that make money from charter schools, textbooks
and testing. An educated and qualified board, free of conflicts of interest, can make
decisions that benefit our students and the future of Texas for everyone. I am the only
teacher running for District 5, and we need more teachers on the State Board of
Education. Let’s keep our eye on education!
The Texas State Board of Education has improved since I first ran for it, when its members’ antics made Texas fodder for late-night comedians. Nowadays, most of our outrage arises from a constant flood of outrageous White House news, but we must not lose sight of the fact that our public-school curriculum is still sadly outdated and in need of revision.
We need a fresh look at the skills and tools needed to solve 21st century problems, including global warming and environmental devastation, challenges to democracy, rampant worldwide income inequality, and political strife. Let’s remember the slogan, “Think globally, act locally,” as we tackle problems that affect not only the nation, but the entire globe. Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to shape the future of Texas and the planet through our choices in public education.
Several key principles should guide our thinking and our actions as we look at public-school curriculum, which is decided by the fifteen members on the unpaid State Board of Education. With our booming population, our public schools educate nearly one in ten students in the United States. What they learn is key to our future, and we must work on improving our corner of the world. This will involve challenging the board’s obsession with Algebra II, choosing instead the more useful path of teaching new skills and subjects, from statistical analysis to computer coding. Aside from providing young people with important work skills, a revised curriculum will conform to new entrance exams and employer demands for an educated workforce.
Even though I live in a district gerrymandered to elect a Republican, I have been committed to winning a seat on the State Board of Education to help change its direction. Since my first run that I lost by 24%, I’ve improved each time, closing the gap to 8% on my next try and then coming within 4% in 2016. Not only does this trajectory suggest that victory is within reach in 2020, but so does the trend of suburban voters being more likely to support Democrats because the Austin-San Antonio corridor is the core of my district.
As a candidate, I will be running at full speed, with a leave from my teaching duties and a steadfast commitment to the same vision and principles that have inspired me from the beginning. Winning will take grit, determination, hard work, and a unified Democratic party. I am excited for our future, and I hope you’ll join and support me!