State Board of Education: District 10
Because of redistricting, all 15 seats on the State Board of Education are up for grabs this election. Two of those seats cover Austin, and today we’re looking at the race in District 10. The 17-county area used to include all of Austin north of Lady Bird Lake. But that boundary was pushed northward, closer to Farm Road 2222.
The race has two candidates. Republican Tom Maynard is a former classroom teacher, served as a school board trustee in Florence and is now executive director of Texas FFA, which helps students prepare for careers in agriculture. Democrat Judy Jennings has a Ph.D. in educational psychology and works for the Northside school district and a Regional Education Service Center. She also does work for the Texas Education Agency.
Whoever wins will have to face some controversies. First up: adoption of new science textbooks. The standards approved by the board require students to “analyze and evaluate” certain theories of evolution. Jennings says she doesn’t want to see textbooks watering down evolution.
“I don’t think there are alternative theories of evolution,” Jennings said. “I think just like the theory of gravity, evolution is a scientific theory that should be taught to all students.”
Maynard says evolution should be taught, but says discussions about faith could be included.
“I know a lot of people in the scientific community and different facets of the scientific community that fall on either side of that,” Maynard said. “Ultimately, we need to teach young people to think for themselves and to evaluate what’s there.”
Another issue is adoption of health education standards. Maynard says any sex education in the health curriculum should be abstinence-focused but include lessons on contraception.
“Does it need to be part of the curriculum? Absolutely,” he said. “Do parents need to have the option of letting their kids opt out of that? Absolutely.”
Jennings says abstinence-only education should not be an option.
“All children should be taught age-appropriate and medically accurate information that includes methods of birth control,” she said.
But what does each candidate consider important? Jennings says she would like see more engaging curriculum in schools.
“For instance, project-based learning,” she said. “Rather than having students sitting in rows trying to absorb what the teacher is saying, project-based learning where students are actively involved in doing things in the classroom.”
One of Maynard’s central concerns is local control and school transparency.
“We have to get back to schools being community schools,” he said. “I think we have to insist on transparency from community schools to make sure that voters understand what’s really going on in a way that any person can understand. But at the end of the day, it needs to be their school and they need to feel like they have ownership of that school.”
Early voting at most polling stations ends at 7 tonight. The voting megacenter at Highland Mall is open until 9. Polls reopen on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.