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State Board of Education Has A New Chair

Gov. Rick Perry has named former science teacher and staunch social conservative Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, to chair the board that oversees the state's public school system.

Barbara Cargill, State Board of Education.

Gov. Rick Perry has named Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, to chair the State Board of Education.  

Her appointment comes as the Senate adjourned without approving Gail Lowe, her predecessor. Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville and chair of the Senate Nominations committee, said in March that was because Lowe did not have enough votes for confirmation on the floor. Since the governor appointed Cargill during the interim, she will not go through the Senate confirmation process until lawmakers return in 2013. Her term is set to expire in February of that year.

The former science teacher consistently votes with the board's socially conservative bloc and is a proponent of teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. Last spring, during the board's debate on social studies standards, Cargill successfully pushed for the elimination of “sex and gender and social constructs” from sociology curriculum.

“This allows students to go into the world of transvestites, transsexuals and God-knows-what-else,” she said at the time.

A frequent ally of former board member Don McLeroy, she supported his efforts to remove a requirement that students explore the history of minority groups, arguing that took away from teaching them about the American “melting pot.”

Competing interest groups have already issued warring press releases on her appointment.

The Texas Freedom Network, the state board's most fierce liberal watchdog, said that by installing Cargill as chair, Perry "has single-handedly ensured that the state board will continue to be a divisive and embarrassing battleground in the nation's culture wars for the next two years."

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Liberty Institute praised Cargill's 25 years of experience in science education.

“Ms. Cargill has stood strong against censorship of science teaching and attacks on the teaching of Independence Day, military leaders, and Christmas, while supporting history standards that ensure teaching about the U.S Constitution, our Founding Fathers, the religious heritage of our country and American Exceptionalism,” said Jonathan Saenz, the Institute's director of legislative affairs, in a statement. 

Cargill has served on the board that oversees the state's public school system since 2004.

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