Texas governor picks home-schooler to lead state Board of Education

Jun 30, 2015

by Valerie Strauss

When it comes to education, Texas is the state that keeps on giving — and not in a good way.

In 2010, there was tumult over proposed changes to social studies standards by religious conservatives on the State Board of Education, including one that referred to the United States’s slave trade as the “Atlantic triangular trade.” In 2014, the board majority approved new social studies textbooks, some of which were criticized as being inaccurate and biased. And now, Gov. Greg Abbott,  has sparked controversy — even among fellow Republicans — with his appointment of a new chair of the Texas Board of Education, which is charged with setting policy and standards for the state’s public schools.

Abbott tapped Donna Bahorich, a Republican from Houston who has been on the board for two years and who home-schooled her three sons before sending them to private schools. They never went to Texas public schools.

Bahorich, a former communications director for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who will succeed outgoing chair Barbara Cargil, was quoted by Texas Public Radio as saying that “my research and my work and my desire and interests have all been in education.” But her appointment is drawing criticism not just from Abbott critics but also from some of Bahorich’s Republican colleagues. Texas Public Radio quoted Thomas Ratliff, a Republican member of the state Board of Education, as saying:

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26 comments on “Texas governor picks home-schooler to lead state Board of Education

  • @OP -link – “Public school isn’t for everybody, but when 94-percent of our students in Texas attend public schools, I think it ought to be a baseline requirement that the chair of the State Board of Education have at least some experience in that realm, as a parent, teacher, something.”

    Ah! But to promote a ideologue agenda, the inability to see any real problems is a political asset, so selecting someone for the driving seat who is bound to fail the hazard perception test, is the obvious choice, if unthinking unhesitating decisions are required to keep the ideological supporters happy!

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  • It seems the days of praying for rain by the Governor are over.

    Hang on, isn’t Rick Perry running for President ? God help the American weather !

    As to the Texas kids, why not just teach them basic science, – the kind that works and predicts new outcomes ? Naive ? I live in hope !

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  • This is the American death wish. Put a nincompoop who hates the public school system in charge of protecting it.

    America is so wealthy because of the left over benefits of American investment is science education in the 50s and 60s. It was sexy because of the space race.

    Now Texas and similar states want to discard that lead as fast as possible. That is a choice, but it leads to creating a largely impoverished country like Brazil.

    They are not just teaching bible garbage as science, they are not teaching critical thinking on the grounds it might lead students to question their religious indoctrinations. They don’t even learn critical thinking to avoid non-religious scams.

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  • We’ve been lumbered with so called “Free schools” in the UK; free in the sense that any crackpot can run them, and there have been Trojan Horse establishments indoctrinating children in the ways of Islam, and others introducing Creationism into science classes.

    I wrote to my MP about the latter, and got a prompt and positive response, which gave an undertaking to forward my letter to the then Secretary of State for Education; unfortunately, he it was who introduced the balmy scheme in the first place.

    I never heard another dickybird personally, but apparantly some schools had their licences revoked.

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  • Further on free schools; The Government was inspired by the Danish free school experiment, however, by the time they were up and running here the Danes had scrapped free schools – because they didn’t work!

    I wonder how much that pet project is costing us, and not just financially but in terms of educational standards.

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  • America’s success in the post WW2 era was just as dependent on the fact that the rest of the world had just finished getting the crap blown out of their factories and our acquisition of the best Nazi scientists around. As for the average Joe at the time, well to put it mildly wasn’t much of a fan of science. For example the Apollo space program had less than 50% support throughout its duration.

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  • Sadly we get “free” schools in the Uk because the electorate failed to realise that voting for demagogues arguing for reduced taxes was against their interests. Income tax is the only truly fair tax there has ever been because it is determined by the individual’s ability to pay. Cutting it enables the rich with more disposable income to chose to send their children to Eton & Harrow while the rest have to cope with the underfunded “bog-standard comprehensives” Such is the funding crisis today that the government is only too happy to place schooling in the hands of any rich loony. And how do the voters respond? By voting for more of it and electing the Conservatives. How do labour respond? By adopting Tory policies in the hope that the electorate is dumb enough to think that they mean it. They don’t, not since Blair out=thatchered Thatcher.

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  • 14
    Weverton says:

    I have to say that there is a huge difference among the american public school and the others public school spread around the world, such as in Canada, UK, Chile and Brasil, where I live….
    Here, do not ask me why, the public school is free of charge and, besides that, it has the best quality of teaching…
    Of course it is not free, because we have to pay around 44% of direct taxes on our daily lives to support this huge “left wing” state… but it works!!!
    So, it seems to me that the word “public” is misunderstood for most american citizens, that make a relationship with communism or some shit like that.

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  • Hi D’Arcy

    Clint Eastwood would be right about the Jazz & Westerns, but hamburgers come from Hamburg, thus the name. Though, to be scrupulously fair, the United States is the first place on Earth to combine the poor man’s minced beef Hamburg Steak with the Earl of Sandwich’s invention: (putting perfectly good food between two pieces of bread in order to make it as bland as possible).

    For the geographically challenged: Hamburg is in Germany.

    Personally, I can forgive the Americans almost everything just for Jazz. Even hamburgers.


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  • Hi Stafford,

    Since when did politicians care about the quality of education?

    No political ideology, except classic liberalism, provides an incentive to support citizens to reach their highest academic potential because only classic liberalism puts the citizen first, and treats them as full partners in the democratic process.

    All other political ideologies seek to subsume the citizen, to co-opt them into groups that they can label (or better still, label themselves) and manipulate. In this case the politicians of all non-liberal persuasions co-operate, even while loudly disagreeing with each other, on undermining education.

    Facts are disputed in politics because dogma and vested interests come before facts. Thus, facts become controversial in education wherever politics has a role in setting the education agenda or in appointing managers or policy makers.

    Free Schools work. If you think they don’t your just not understanding modern politicians. To be important, politicians need to have something to argue about. Nothing provides them with more opportunities than partisanship, and no area is more partisan than sectarianism. Nationalism is a great way to split a nation into sub-divisions and then set them against each other over … we’ll make up anything really because if you get that far half the population isn’t thinking anyway. Then there’s ethnicity, but liberal policies have been very successful here. Then there’s religion. Wherever two people of conviction through faith are gathered, there shall be strife.

    Increasingly, education is coming into the sights of political big guns because, even after education that lacks factual quality, people will take that education and use it to do things like develop skills in critical thinking – it’s very inconvenient. People are increasingly refusing to identify with the politicians labels, and this is making vested interests nervous.

    The solution, almost all politicians silently agree – though their co-operative actions give them away – is to devalue education.

    It would be too fantastic to suggest that this is organised. If this is a conspiracy, then it is a conspiracy of the same type as that claimed by feminists: Two mysoginists need never meet, or speak, or even share a look to understand each other and silently agree an agenda. Dogmatic politicians, even those of radically different ideologies, are exactly the same when it comes to an annoyance like educated citizens.

    This is particularly pronounced in the U.S., where a significant shift towards the formation of a new aristocracy has been observed by many, including the politicians themselves.

    Exactly what shape this aristocracy will take is still up in the air, but one aspect is already clear: They don’t like education – any public education. It creates upstarts who think the being an entrepreneur is a license to join the aristocracy, it creates people who are unhappy with their lot and therefore refuse to tug their forelock at every passing aristocrat. They do strange things like getting involved in political activity like support for gay rights, or campaigning for better use of natural resources that everyone knows is the natural right of the aristocrats to decide. They even think that democracy is about ordinary people actually holding some sort of power over the Establishment!

    In Europe the picture is a little more nuanced. Fewer rich people per head, higher taxes on the rich, fewer organisations controlled by the rich … and and and …

    But Europe’s politicians are not taking the U.S. leadership on this issue lying down. The professionalisation of politics, the attacks on human rights (recently in Britain directly, but more often underhand attacks on old liberties via fear-mongering and measures on supposed ‘security’ issues, the promotion of theisms, the kow-towing to vested interests (recently falling to new, previously imagined impossible, depths with secret – SECRET !!! – trade deals, the constant and many-headed attacks on free speech – particularly the Net via attacks on Net Neutrality., the list goes on and on and on.

    Education: Making a bunch of kids near you into happy zombie consumers to support your local aristocrat/political class. As supported by all the Establishment, particularly Commercial Media and other for-profits large enough to support a politically active management and/or owners.

    Smile and be happy, you’re not in charge, so you have no worries.


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  • alf1200
    Jul 1, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    There is a bumper sticker here in the US regarding Texas. “Don’t mess with Texas”.

    At the risk of having it shot off, you could try “Tex-Ass -still braying”!!

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  • I know everyone rolls their eyes when they hear that, but the phrase it’s self actually originates from a state wide campaign in the nineteen-eighties to reduce littering.

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  • 19
    bonnie says:


    Tejas, hombre, so named for a native american tribe in the region of yesteryear.

    Texas Home School Coalition, I’m guessing, is a powerful lobby group that helped Gov. Abbott get elected (possible Gerrymandering, too). *”I scratch your back…”.

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  • Hi Stafford,

    Thanks for that. 🙂

    I was half expecting to come back and find three or more responses from people telling me not to be such horse’s, err …well you get the picture.

    I didn’t think I was ranting at the time, more flying kites that would, surely, be shot down.


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  • The Controversial Poster Philoctetes
    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    No wonder the gun rules. Seems like its been downhill all the way since the death of Jefferson?

    If it moves, – wanders on to your property, – especially if it is wearing body armour – pot-shots from the Texas gun-crazy come as standard!!!

    A man from Texas has been wounded after a bullet he fired at an armadillo ricocheted and hit him in the head, the local sheriff says.

    The shooting incident took place in the Marietta area of East Texas.

    Three shots were fired and at least one ricocheted off the shell.

    The gunman was treated for a minor injury to the jaw, USA Today reports, but the small armoured creature has not been found and its fate remains unclear.

    Cass County Sheriff Larry Rowe told Reuters that the shooter opened fire in the early hours of Thursday morning when he spotted the armadillo on his property.

    “He went outside and took his .38 revolver and shot three times at the armadillo,” Mr Rowe said.

    Thursday’s incident is not the first armadillo bullet deflection to end in a human wounding in the southern United States in recent months.

    In April a Georgia man injured his mother-in-law when a bullet ricocheted off an armadillo, “hit a fence, went through the back door of his mother-in-law’s mobile home, through a recliner she was sitting in, and into her back,”

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