Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Tincy Miller and Lois Parrott

There was another debate Tuesday night: the League of Women Voters (LWV) sponsored a forum for the candidates for the District 12 seat on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), Geraldine "Tincy" Miller and Lois Parrott.

What's the SBOE? Knowing you'd ask, the LWV selected as the very first topic the audience question, "What is the mission of the SBOE?" Miller answered first: to manage and protect the Permanent School Fund (PSF), to define curriculum, and to review and select textbooks. Parrott agreed.

After the jump, what the candidates promised to do to achieve that mission.

Permanent School Fund

Lois Parrott accused Miller of being a member of SBOE when the SBOE voted to change financial consultants, which some saw as politically motivated and/or a case of cronyism and conflict of interest. Miller defended herself by saying she opposed what was done.

Still, Miller adamantly protects the SBOE's power to manage this $25 billion fund, despite the fact that the 15 member board has little financial expertise among its members. David Bradley, former chair of the SBOE committee overseeing the PSF, and still a member of the SBOE, has been quoted as saying, "If you sit on the mental health commission, do you have to be retarded? If you sit on the [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission], do you have to be a drunk?" I don't know if Miller would put it the way Bradley did, but on this matter, she's on his side.

I don't know if Parrott would support giving up some of the SBOE's powers to get independent, professional management of the PSF, but I know that Miller would never support it.

Edge on PSF: Parrott, by process of elimination.


The candidates were asked if they spend time or would spend time with teachers in the classroom seeking input when setting curriculum standards. This was Parrott's best answer of the night. She vigorously stated her own personal history as a teacher. She also related that, as a long-serving member on the Dallas ISD school board while Tincy Miller was on the SBOE, she never heard from Miller.

Miller's response was a distraction. She said she consults with active and retired teachers as well as citizens. Then she went out of her way to praise Bill Ames as a friend and expert in history who is a champion for American exceptionalism. Well, Ames is a retired engineer. He is not a teacher. He has no academic expertise in history at all. Miller's reliance on Ames for expertise is chilling.

Here is what the Texas Tribune says about Ames' view of American exceptionalism:
Ames may have been speaking for the elected board's majority when he tried to push through a standard on "American exceptionalism." Depending on how it's interpreted, exceptionalism can mean simply that the country, particularly its founders, did exceptional things. Or it can mean -- in a definition endorsed by Ames in his treatise -- that America is "not only unique but superior," that its citizens are "chosen people, divinely ordained to lead the world to betterment," and that it is "not destined to rise and fall. Americans will escape 'the laws of history' which eventually cause the downfall of all great nations and empires."
Source: Texas Tribune.
Here is what Ames himself says about sex education:
I will explain exactly what abortion politics have to do with the SBOE. In 2004, the SBOE adopted an abstinence-based sex education curriculum, in accordinance with the state education code. Planned Parenthood was a substantial lobbyist for the anti-abstinence sex education curriculum demanded by TFN and other members of the education political lobby. Planned Parenthood requires thousands of sexually active teens in Texas in order to keep its abortion mills profitably humming along. Thus it supported the curriculum proposal that encourages teen sexual activity. Abortion politics has lots to do with the SBOE.
Miller singled out Ames twice for praise. Like I said, Miller's reliance on Ames for expertise is chilling.

Parrott insisted that curriculum be fact-based and politics should play no part in setting the curriculum. She said Creationism is religion and has no place in the science curriculum.

Miller also insisted that the curriculum be fact based and not politically correct, but then went on to say that while she was on the SBOE, there were vocal advocates for both Creationism and evolution and she supported a curriculum that included both. She never defined "politically correct," but it seems to me she sided with religious conservatives (of which she is one) in supporting a politically correct (for social conservatives), religiously-based (not fact-based) curriculum in the science standards.

Edge on curriculum: Parrott by a huge margin.


The only questions specifically on textbooks asked the candidates for their positions on digital publishing, followed by a question about funding for electronic hardware.

Parrott said she was all for use of electronic devices for textbook delivery -- they save money, content can be customized and updated, and they can be adapted for disabled students. This strong answer was fumbled when Parrott didn't understand the funding question. She seemed to blame the unknown audience member who asked the question, the moderator, maybe even the forum format for her confusion. This was, by far, her worst answer of the night.

Miller fumbled the question herself. She spoke of e-Kindles (sic). She cautioned against electronic devices because it's easy for "kiddos" to get into the content. I wasn't sure if she was afraid of students hacking the history lesson or viewing porn, but in any case, she came across as a relic from the 1980s, which, coincidentally, is when she first began her service on the SBOE.

Edge: Parrott, but it requires excusing her fumble.


The candidates were asked questions about topics that are outside the SBOE's area of responsibility.

Vouchers: Miller is for them. Parrott is against them (they divert funds from public schools).

Charter schools: Miller is for them. Parrott is against them (they can cherry pick students; they divert funds).

Sex education: Parrott is for comprehensive sex education, including information about STDs. Miller just reiterated the legislature's position requiring that if sex education is offered at all, that it be abstinence-based.

Religion: Parrott repeated that the curriculum should be fact-based. Miller said she misses when classes opened the day with a prayer and doesn't see any reason why we can't have that.


glbeach said...

Parrott sounds like a solid, sensible candidate. So naturally this will put her at a disadvantage in that sensible people are sensible but the fanatics that have an agenda and a (shall I say it?) preordained perspective are easier to organize and easier to stir up. I wish Lois Parrott well and hope she wins, but it will take a lot of effort in this nuthouse known as Texas politics.

(I always feel like this is a fitting comment on those not wanting science to be fact-based: "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!")

Mark Steger said...

Video of the LWV forum is posted on the LWV Richardson website here.