Texas Governor Greg Abbott has appointed conservative Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) as the new chair of the State Board of Education (SBOE). While the news of her appointment was met with overall praise, it upset the board’s lone lobbyist.
As SBOE chair, Bahorich will take the reins from fellow conservative Barbara Cargill, who was appointed as chair twice by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 and 2013. Bahorich will oversee the 15-member elected board, of which 10 are Republicans and five are Democrats.
First elected to the SBOE in November 2012, Bahorich serves on the Committee on School Initiatives, which oversees agenda items related to charter schools, State Board for Educator Certification rules, and the appointment of school board members for districts located on military bases, which she previously chaired. She is also a member of the board’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Long-Range Plan for Public Education. Bahorich represents District 6 in Harris County.
The role of the chair is to establish the agenda for the state education board meetings. Among the SBOE’s responsibilities are setting curriculum standards and selecting instructional materials. In 2014, the textbook adoption process was a monumental task of wading through an unrelenting progressive bias in the history and Social Studies textbooks/e-books, as Breitbart Texas reported.
Breitbart Texas spoke to Bahorich hours after her appointment, She commented that, although she knew she was being considered, she was still surprised to learn she was appointed by the governor.
“I’ve got a mission to serve 5.2 million children in Texas,” she said, taking the weight of her new role seriously in serving the state’s public school students.
Among Bahorich’s priorities are a holding publisher’s roundtable in September to discuss how publishing is changing, and other issues such as technology. During her term, Bahorich also wants to focus on cost-effective and wise classroom content purchases. She will chair her first SBOE meeting in July.
Bahorich is considered to be a rock-solid conservative by her peers. As a champion of school choice, she is the board liaison to the Texas Education Commissioner on Charter School Approvals.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is also a staunch supporter of school choice. Bahorich served as his campaign manager during the Republican Patrick’s first bid for the state senate seat in 2006. Subsequently, Bahorich was on his team in various capacities, including district director, campaign treasurer and communications director.
Via email to Breitbart Texas, Lt. Gov. Patrick said of the appointment, “I applaud the decision of Governor Abbott. I’ve known Donna Bahorich for over a decade.”
Patrick acknowleged her service as his district director as a Senator before being elected to the SBOE in 2013. He said of Bahorich, “She is one of the smartest and hardest working people I’ve ever known. She has a passion for, and knowledge of education, that will help her be a dynamic Chair of the SBOE.”
Bahorich is a graduate of Virginia Tech Univerity with a B.S. in financial management. She also holds her M.A. in counseling from Liberty University. In addition to a career in the private sector, Bahorich was named the Senate District 7 Volunteer of the Year in 2007. She served as the 2010 Harris County Republican primary director, assigning polling locations and assembling election personnel for 885 precincts for primary and runoff elections.
As an active community volunteer, she served as a member of the West Houston P-16 Council, graduated from the Leadership Houston program, and served as president of the Daughters of Liberty Republican Women. She is a member of the pastor’s council at Houston Vineyard Church.
Her earlier education credentials also include founding Home Ed Plus in 1998, a non-profit organization that offers supplemental classes for home school families.
Also in reponse to the announcement of the appointment, fellow board member Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) called Bahorich “an outstanding choice” made by the governor. He told Breitbart Texas by phone, “The endorsement by Governor Greg Abbott speaks volumes to her abilities and the trust he has in Donna.”
Outgoing SBOE chair Cargill told Breitbart Texas she was delighted with Abbott’s choice of Bahorich, as well.
However, not everyone was happy to learn of the Bahorich appointment. The often cantankerous SBOE board member from Mt. Pleasant, Thomas Ratliff, slammed the incoming chair, telling the Texas Tribune that he did not believe Bahorich had enough experience with public schools to qualify her for the job.
Thomas Ratliff is often red-flagged as a controversial figure because he is a registered Microsoft lobbyist. There have been questions about the legitimacy of his service on the SBOE, given the troubling potential conflict-of-interest his role as lobbyist poses, primarily because it is for the company firmly tied to this 21st Century education technology and to the Common Core.
Ratliff pounced, calling Bahorich “a nice lady and a hard worker and I think her heart’s in the right place,” but then knocked her because he thought “it ought to be a fundamental requirement on the state board for someone to have had kids in public school.”
The shrouded insult alluded to Bahorich homeschooling three sons who also attended private and parochial schools and later went onto receive engineering degrees from Rice University and the University of Texas, respectively.
Ratliff’s sour sentiments about Abbott’s SBOE chair pick were shared by progressive Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller. Last year, Breitbart Texas reported on Miller’s wild claims that Texas was teaching that Moses was a founding father of the United States, which the Texas Education Agency, the administrative body over the state’s public education, told Breitbart Texas was not true.
Recently, Ratliff announced he would not seek re-election to the SBOE board when his term expires in 2017, which Breitbart Texas reported. However, he claimed to be rethinking that decision because of Bahorich’s appointment, according to the Tribune.
In response, board member Mercer told Breitbart Texas he was disappointed by the clearly divisive remarks made by Ratliff. Mercer emphasized that Ratliff is “a registered lobbyist.”
He added that unlike Ratliff, “Donna is not a registered lobbyist, she is a public servant. As a public servant she understands the need to separate what is best for the children of Texas and what is best for the children may not be what is best for the lobby.”
Outgoing chair Cargill added her dismay over Ratliff’s disparaging comments about Bahorich. She told Breitbart Texas, “Obviously, he (Ratliff) doesn’t respect our governor’s decision in wisely placing great confidence in Donna.”
Abbott announced the appointment of Bahorich as SBOE chair on Thursday, June 18. Her term will expire on February 1, 2017.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.