The primary battle to represent District 14 on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), which includes a wide strip that stretches around Fort Worth from Denton County to Waco, didn't receive much attention during this election season. The lack of attention, however, didn’t make the results any less surprising.
Newcomer Sue Melton, a retired educator and former president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators defeated Gail Lowe, a Lampasas Republican who had been on the board since 2002. Lowe had served as chair of the SBOE from 2009 to 2011. Though she was considered less vocal about the controversial curriculum changes pushed by her predecessor, she associated most commonly with the social conservative bloc of the board. No Democrat filed to run in the race, but Melton will face Libertarian candidate Stephen Hawkins in the general election in November.
The Texas SBOE is in charge of writing the curriculum required in Texas public schools, which often in turn affects the content of published textbooks sold in other states. Since former member and chair Don McLeroy was featured in a New York Times article in 2010, the board has attracted much national attention for its attempts to change science and social studies curriculum to reflect a more conservative perspective.
Melton ran on a campaign of fixing the “broken curriculum” in Texas and giving local districts more control. Her platform does not include many specifics, but it’s clear that her experience with teaching professional organizations played a major role in her primary win. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, Melton’s two largest donations came from the ATPE ($2,500) and the Texas State Teachers Association ($1000). Her campaign spent a little less than $3,000 to unseat Lowe, who spent more than $20,000 in her unsuccessful bid for reelection.
Such unexpected results for Texas SBOE races have become more prevalent in recent years. In 2010, Richardson teacher George M. Clayton defeated incumbent Geraldine “Tincy” Miller in the Republican Primary for District 12 after spending less than $2,000 on his campaign. This year, Miller spent over $200,000 of her own funds to win her seat back from Clayton. She won 34% of the vote in the Republican primary and will face another challenger, Gail Spurlock, in a runoff.
If Melton wins the general election, she will be sworn in as a new member of the board in January of 2013.