At its December meeting, the State Board of Education made recommendations to the Legislature concerning the issues it regards as a priority for the next legislative session. Here they are:
1. Assure full funding of Proclamation 2011 instructional materials to honor the commitment made to publishers during the 81st session and assure that the Permanent School Fund monies paid to the Available School Fund each biennium are appropriated to fully fund instructional materials content first before they are utilized for other education-related expenses.
2. Prevent subsequent subject matter content changes to electronic textbooks after initial approval from introducing factual errors and/or diluting TEKS coverage. Require the elected State Board of Education, not the appointed Commissioner of Education, to approve electronic textbooks.
3. Require a general appropriation by the Legislature for textbook proclamations prior to the SBOE adopting materials in that proclamation.
4. Assure funding for supplemental science materials in preparation for the onset of End-of Course exams.
5. Amend Texas Education Code Chapter 7.103(c) to clarify eligibility of registered lobbyist doing business with a profession, business or association related to the operation of the Board.
Huh? This is one of the top five priorities for the State Board of Education? Are lobbyists influencing board members? Wining and dining them? No, that’s not the problem.
What’s going on here is that the conservative faction on the SBOE has lost its majority on the board. Newly elected board member Thomas Ratliff is a registered lobbyist who defeated SBOE chairman Don McLeroy, rates to be an implacable foe of the nonsense that has taken place on the board in recent years. Apparently the outgoing members of the SBOE’s conservative faction, who have attended their last meeting, regarded Ratliff’s election as sufficiently alarming to raise the issue of a lobbyist’s presence on the board as one of its top five priorities. There is no prohibition against lobbyists serving on the SBOE; longtime member Will Davis served for many years while practicing his profession as an insurance lobbyist.
I would prefer that no lobbyist be allowed to sit on state boards, but Ratliff won his seat by election, not by appointment, and so long as he does not have clients in the education area, and so long as he it is does not lobby the SBOE or the Texas Education Agency, I don’t think that the Legislature is going to pay much attention to recommendation #5. Nor should it.