Kathy Miller is outraged that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has chosen a home-schooling parent to lead the Texas Board of Education.
“If Gov. Abbott wanted to demonstrate that he won’t continue his predecessor’s efforts to politicize and undermine our state’s public schools, this appointment falls far short,” Miller said.
Miller is the president of Texas Freedom Network — an organization that describes itself as a “nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.”
Miller might be fit to be tied, but the woman in question, Donna Bahorich (R), the new chair of the Texas Board of Education, believes her home-schooling experience should be seen as a positive factor in her new role guiding public education in the state.
However, Miller isn’t only bothered by the fact that Bahorich home-schooled her three sons before sending them to a private high school.
Miller also pointed out that in 2013, her first year on the board, Bahorich voted against a resolution urging the Legislature to reject private school vouchers.
And then there are the new social studies textbooks that Bahorich voted in favor of, and the Texas Board of Education approved in 2014.
Critics of the books that will be introduced in Texas public school classrooms this fall contend the textbooks whitewash history, especially when it comes to the Civil War, the KKK’s influence in Texas and segregation.
Adding it all up, Miller contends, “The governor has appointed as board chair an ideologue who voted to adopt new textbooks that scholars sharply criticized as distorting American history, who rejected public education for her own family and who supports shifting tax dollars from neighborhood public schools to private and religious schools through vouchers.”
“This appointment almost guarantees that the board will continue to put culture war agendas ahead of educating more than 5 million Texas kids,” she said.
Bahorich, who worked for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) when he ran for the state Senate, told Texas Public Radio she doesn’t see any conflict between the home-schooling of her sons and her work on the state’s school board.
“My research and my work and my desire and interests have all been in education, so when there was an opportunity for me to run for office it seems like such a natural fit for me because of my intense interest in this area and because of the relationships I had formed while serving in then-Senator Patrick’s office,” Bahorich said.
Harris County, Texas, voters didn’t have a problem with Bahorich’s history of home-schooling.
Bahorich was first elected to the state board as the District 6 representative in November 2012 and took office on Jan. 1, 2013. She served on the Committee on School Initiatives, which oversaw agenda items related to charter schools, State Board for Educator Certification rules, and the appointment of school board members for those districts located on military bases. She also served as a member of the board’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Long-Range Plan for Public Education.
But it isn’t only Kathy Miller who is criticizing the choice of Bahorich to run the state’s board of education.
Thomas Ratliff, a fellow Republican on the Texas Board of Education, said, “Public school isn’t for everybody, but when 94 percent of our students in Texas attend public schools I think it ought to be a baseline requirement that the chair of the State Board of Education have at least some experience in that realm, as a parent, teacher, something.”
Bahorich said those who have a problem with her are mistaken if they believe she has a problem with public education.
She told the Dallas Morning News the decision to school her oldest son at home was a matter of convenience more than anything else. The family had just moved to another state in November, so it would have been tough to get her son, Mark, enrolled in kindergarten.
“I soon discovered that I really enjoyed being the teacher, even with as much work as it was. I loved opening those doors and turning on those lights in his head,” Bahorich said. “It was a tremendous amount of work, but it is something that I think back on and it was fun. And I just kept doing it. It just rolled from one year to the next and I enjoyed it.”
Bahorich stressed she doesn’t think home-schooling is the only way for parents and children in Texas.
“I am definitely a conservative, but I don’t think of myself of being in a particular box. It is about individual issues for me,” she said “I am convinced that a strong public education system built this country to where we are today, and we can’t let that go by the wayside.”