Amid excessive profile political discussions about how Texas college students study race, gender and sexuality, three El Paso educators are vying for a seat on the State Board of Education, which sets and evaluations curriculum requirements and approves textbooks for public faculties.
Laura Márquez, Melissa Ortega and Omar Yanar are competing to be the Democratic candidate on the November poll for the District 1 seat, which covers 30 counties stretching from El Paso to the San Antonio suburbs all the way down to Laredo. Close to 45% of El Paso is in District 1. Two Republicans are looking for that celebration’s main nomination.
The seat is presently held by Democrat Georgina Pérez, who’s stepping down in December after two phrases.
The 15-member state board has a historical past of politicizing the instructing of intercourse schooling and evolution, and simply began a evaluation of social research curriculum — the first after Republican state lawmakers handed legislation final yr limiting how lecturers focus on race and racism. The panel has not too long ago drawn criticism for appointing a former professor who has promoted falsehoods about the 2020 election outcomes as a curriculum content material advisor.
“Having somebody in there who really understands the curriculum at the deepest level … would really help the colleagues that I’d be working with at the state level,” Ortega mentioned. “I’d be able to really advocate for the needs of our teachers, our students and our community regarding STEM education.”
Ortega, 40, a former center faculty science instructor who now teaches ladies’s and gender research at the University of Texas at El Paso, mentioned her background in science schooling has ready her for the board’s forthcoming evaluation of science curriculum. She taught for seven years in the El Paso and Socorro impartial faculty districts and spent three years as an assistant director of employees improvement in EPISD. Her doctorate centered on science, know-how, engineering and math (STEM) schooling.
Pérez has endorsed Ortega to succeed her.
Márquez, 39, is backed by one other heavyweight in El Paso’s schooling world: state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, a vocal advocate for public faculties. The Texas department of the American Federation of Teachers has additionally endorsed Márquez.
Márquez spent seven years as a particular schooling paraprofessional in an Illinois faculty district earlier than incomes a grasp’s diploma in social work from UTEP. She is presently a developmental disabilities coverage fellow at the Paso Del Norte Children’s Development Center, connecting kids with disabilities to native sources.
“I would love for more kids to learn about disability,” Márquez mentioned. “Curriculum should be inclusive and representative of all groups — of race, ethnicity and ability.”
Márquez mentioned she would strategy state schooling coverage discussions via a incapacity lens, saying, “When we’re working out a policy to make it best for the most marginalized community, then we can only make it better for all of the community.”
Yanar, 42, opened the El Paso Leadership Academy in 2014, and has since grown the public constitution faculty to 2 campuses serving practically 300 college students in sixth to ninth grade. Before that, he taught social research in the Round Rock Independent School District exterior Austin for 5 years and in EPISD for a yr.
He’s working for the open State Board of Education seat as a result of “the constituency is demanding some radical changes and innovations in how we approach education as a whole,” he mentioned. The pandemic has highlighted long-standing technological wants at faculties, he mentioned.
Specifically, Yanar want to see extra curricular supplies digitized so college students can log in and full the work at their very own tempo, permitting extra individualized instruction for college students who want further assist.
The State Board of Education can also be tasked with approving or vetoing new constitution faculty functions, a divisive matter amongst the Democratic contenders.
Márquez and Ortega mentioned they might proceed Pérez’s custom of rigorously scrutinizing candidates. Both candidates oppose constitution faculties as a result of of their diminished degree of state oversight in comparison with conventional public faculty districts. Of explicit concern to Márquez is that charters, on common, serve fewer college students with disabilities than conventional public faculties.
Yanar, nonetheless, mentioned constitution faculties play an necessary position in the public schooling system. He views them not in its place or competitor to conventional public faculties, however as a complement, describing them as “laboratories of innovation” that may assist clear up challenges in public schooling.
If no candidate receives greater than 50% of the vote in the March 1 main, the prime two vote-getters will transfer on to a May 24 runoff.
Yanar raised $2,500 for his marketing campaign and Márquez introduced in $2,780, based on Jan. 18 and Jan. 31 marketing campaign finance stories. Ortega raised $300 on her Jan. 18 report; she didn’t submit the Jan. 31 report masking the Jan. 1-Jan. 20 fundraising interval.
Republican candidate goals to maintain CRT out of school rooms
Two San Antonio-area educators are working in the Republican main for District 1: Michael “Travis” Stevens, a language arts instructor and educational coach in the Northside Independent School District and speech language pathologist Lani Popp.
Stevens, 40, has been a instructor for 11 years and mentioned he was motivated to run after studying how few educators serve on the state board.
“We need more educators that are on the board that know exactly how these policies are affecting students and teachers in the classroom,” he mentioned.
His marketing campaign web site states he “will fight to keep sexually explicit books out of our school libraries and curriculum that is not based on factual evidence, such as CRT (critical race theory), out of our classrooms.”
District leaders and lecturers overwhelmingly say CRT — a graduate degree framework for analyzing systemic racism — shouldn’t be taught in public faculties. Asked about these positions, Stevens mentioned politics haven’t any place in schooling.
“We need to understand the horrific things that happened (in Texas and U.S. history) because of people’s ignorance and prejudice,” he mentioned. “That needs to be taught, but from a factual, evidence standpoint, not politicized, not with some sort of hidden agenda to villainize any group of people.”
Books shouldn’t be pulled from libraries with out first present process a evaluation, he mentioned, including that he favors a score system for books to find out age appropriateness.
Popp, who misplaced to Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau in the November 2020 normal election for the District 5 seat, now lives in District 1 as a result of of redrawn maps from 2021 state redistricting. She didn’t reply to interview requests despatched to her marketing campaign electronic mail and web site.
Stevens has raised $341 for his marketing campaign, based on his marketing campaign finance stories. Popp reported elevating no cash for her marketing campaign.
Cover photograph: Texas textbooks. (Photo illustration by Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)