Running in the Houston area is key to the Texas State Board of Education’s right turn

Highlighting Texas lawmakers To the right on education issues in recent years, the candidate likely to replace a moderate Republican on the State Board of Education in a district outside of Houston is a right-wing activist who took part in protests at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

After winning the primary in March, the favorite in the District 7 race is Julie Pickren, former administrator of the Alvin Independent School District. Pickren was voted off that council last year after her participation in the U.S. Capitol protest was exposed — the basis of a campaign against her by Brazoria County’s NAACP.

Pickren is a former GOP national and state convention delegate, her LinkedIn says, and on Facebook she blamed antifa, rather than Trump supporters, for the violence during the Capitol riot, a claim that d ‘other Republicans have made without proof. She declined an interview request.

District 7 includes much of Fort Bend County as well as Brazoria and Galveston counties, extending east to Liberty, Orange and Jefferson.

Republicans have moved more to the right on education issues in Texas over the past 18 months. Earlier this summer, Governor Greg Abbott announced his support for vouchers for private schools and endorsed a “parents’ bill of rights” to give parents more power over what and how their children are taught in schools. Last year, the legislature passed and Abbott signed a slew of conservative education bills, including restrictions on how social studies can be taught and on transgender children playing school sports. .

At the local level, school board politics have become increasingly heated, with often angry discussions about diversity and equity policies in schools. Parent groups have organized PACs in opposition to what they see as progressive education activism, raising substantial sums to reshape local school boards across the state.

Next year’s State Board of Education is expected to be more conservative, with Robinson leaving along with two other Republicans who lost their March primaries to opponents backed by right-wing PACs. There are currently nine Republicans and six Democrats serving on the board.

The board’s primary responsibilities include writing the Texas public school curriculum, managing the permanent fund that secures the schools’ debt, and deciding whether to allow new charter schools in the state; Pickren said she supports adding more of them.

Moderate expelled

The District 7 seat opened up last year, when the redistricting legislature moved incumbent Matt Robinson to another district so he couldn’t run for re-election. Robinson, a doctor from Friendswood, said he thinks Republican political leaders in the state did it intentionally because they didn’t think he was supporting charter schools and other conservative political goals enough. .

In a rare move in today’s increasingly polarized politics, Robinson endorses Democrat in the race, Galveston ISD teacher Dan Hochman, to be his successor. Why?

“Because he’s running against Julie Pickren. And it will be bad for public education,” Robinson said.

In lists of his campaign’s most important issues, Pickren named ridding public schools of critical race theory, a legal theory that critics use as a catch-all term to describe diversity and equity initiatives as well as than the discussion of systemic or historical racism. Pickren also supports “parents’ rights” initiatives such as those adopted by Abbott.

“She is leading a fight, an assault on public education that is going on right now. It’s not among all Republicans, but it’s among a good number and she’s kind of leading that fight. And the idea that critical race theory is going on in most schools and most districts, which is entirely false. So his whole approach is, in my view, anti-public education,” Robinson said.

Hochman said Pickren’s participation in the Jan. 6 protests amounted to supporting an insurgency against the United States.

“Technically, because it was called a sedition event, she was in violation of her oath of office. She shouldn’t even be allowed to run by the 14th Amendment. But there’s no judge in Texas who would follow that,” Hochman said.

Judges in other states have allowed members of Congress to stay on the ballot despite similar 14th Amendment arguments being made against themand Hochman said he had no intention of challenging Pickren’s eligibility in court.

Hochman acknowledged he faces a tough climb in the race, as the district leans conservative. Pickren’s campaign has spent about $40,000 so far, while Hochman’s has spent about $10,000. Hochman said his campaign bank account currently contains less than $100.

Pickren’s campaign received $15,000 from Kathaleen Walla wealthy Houston Republican who spent $8.3 million on an unsuccessful 2020 congressional bid.

“It’s really, really a fight for the soul of public education in the state of Texas, which is failing right now,” Hochman said of the race. Hochman added that he would oppose the expansion of charter schools.

“I come up against a woman who is clearly against public education. It is funded by the far right, whose agenda has been publicly clear that they want to dismantle public education and replace it with private schools and charter schools so they can push through an extreme Christian curriculum right in schooling. And it’s not like a conspiracy, it’s pretty much out in the open.

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