Terri Leo represents district 6 for the State Board of Education. She is also the board member who recently attempted to expand the board’s power to review textbooks to include content to protect us from the liberal views of those New York text book publishers.
See, she’s only trying to protect the children of Texas from poorly written text books. In 2003, she provided an example of what she was talking about:
This shift in policy has resulted in many disastrous results. One book approved in Texas, for example, was the subject of national ridicule and condemned on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). Dubbed the “Texas rain-forest algebra book,” it received an “F” grade on a report card produced by Mathematically Correct, a group of independent math scholars who reviewed math books adopted in Texas. The book watered down algebra by including such things as chili recipes, ancient myths, a photograph of Maya Angelou and Bill Clinton (this was supposed to demonstrate parallelism in sentence structure), and asking students what roles zoos play in society. No algebra is even mentioned until page 100. The publisher states that the algebra book’s focus is to “get students to communicate their thinking about problem solving and to work on different approaches, rather than focusing on getting the right answers”. The book says the teacher’s role “is to be a facilitator who supports students. Questions should be posed to stimulate thought rather than get an answer.” Under the previous system, the SBOE was able to insist that publishers correct outrageous and offensive content. Without SBOE content standards, political agendas masquerading as science have been smuggled into classrooms. Books marred with inaccuracies, omissions and errors have been approved as well.
And we all know how many Texas districts rushed out to adopt the text book just because it was approved by the state board. Don’t we? Well, no we don’t. Now this could just be an oversight by Leo in failing to mention the actual number of children who’s algebra education suffered from the use of these text books. You know, somehow I doubt it.
The legislature took the power from the SBOE in the early 90’s after years of flagrant and nationally embarrassing decisions approving or disapproving text books based on the beliefs of a small percentage of the population. Essentially, the SBOE was denying local districts the opportunity to adopt text books simply because board members thought they books undermined Texas values rather than it’s actual factual content. As for who gets to define those values, well, the board naturally. Leo obviously feels the legislature made a mistake.
I can’t help but believe that she represents that small minority that the legislature was addressing. On her personal website, Leo states the following:
A strong conservative voice in the State Board of Education’s management of the multi-billion dollar Permanent School Fund will always be essential, and I have stood consistently for traditional, conservative values in this, as well.
What’s interesting is that in the previous paragraphs she doesn’t really address the conservative values that she refers to in “as well.” She does talk about her roles on the board and how the board affects text book decisions nation wide. When she presents her view on phonics-based instruction, she doesn’t appear to be suggesting that it is a conservative view.
While some would dismiss this as merely mincing words, I think it really does reflect her belief in having a strong conservative voice in all things regarding education. She has a conservative agenda and her mind is made up.
Terri Leo is the leader of the Texas Taliban faction on the State Board of Education; she even exercised her perogative as a Board Member to make a speech before the last public hearing of the Board in Austin to profess her commitment to creationist-inspired skepticism about Darwin’s theory of evolution (and this before hearing any testimony!).
Whatever you may think about the evolution debate, I think it is telling that she was providing her views before any testimony. So what is education to her? Apparently it doesn’t include teaching the thoughtful discussion and analysis of a situation before reaching a conclusion. Maybe it’s more about indoctrination? It certainly is not about local control and trusting local teachers and officials to make sound judgements regarding the education of their children.
Leo, a homemaker and former teacher in Garland and Dallas, voted as one of four board members against 11 others to reject some biology textbooks dealing with evolution.Leo, 44, said the books did not fully discuss and portray deficiencies in the scientific basis for evolutionary theories.
The majority voted to adopt the books because books can be rejected based only on factual errors or failure to follow mandated state curriculum.
A brief (PDF) from a number of groups, led by the Texas State Teachers Association and also including the Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers, urged the attorney general to reaffirm DM-424, contending that Leo’s request “telegraphs a desire by some members of the SBOE to return to the day when textbook decisions were made on non-educational grounds,” when “the SBOE’s textbook adoption process was entangled with ideology, politics, and religion, and was a forum for divisive political battles that focused on ideological rather than educational or pedagogical concerns.”
Leo is not up for re-election this year. However, all Texans who believe that public education should be a place for informed and civic education rather than mere indoctrination would do well to keep an eye open for her next power play.