In Kickoff to 2018 Campaigns, Texas Board of Education’s Center Holds as Swing Vote Wins Primary

Pat Hardy, the self-proclaimed swing vote on the powerful Texas Board of Education, is on the path to re-election as the body is set to consider contentious issues such as rewrites of state history and sex ed standards.

The 15-member board, which currently has five Democrats and 10 Republicans, is often divided into three factions: Democrats, moderately conservative Republicans, and “social conservatives,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Pat Hardy (Courtesy Texas Education Agency)

Hardy, a former teacher, is undoubtedly conservative but has earned a reputation for listening to teachers and was endorsed by the United Educators Association, a Dallas teachers union, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

She was often a swing vote among the three factions.

“The swing voter is the most powerful person in the whole show. That is a badge of honor,” Hardy told the Star-Telegram.

Hardy took 55.8 percent of the primary vote, avoiding a runoff. She will face Democrat Carla Morton, a pediatric neuropsychologist whose campaign is focused on “science-based education” and special ed, in November. Hardy won her past two general elections with 65 and 83 percent of the vote.

The three factions on the board are forced to work together, and losing Hardy would upset the balance, one education lobbyist told the Texas Tribune.

A total of seven seats on the board are up for re-election this year, and three incumbents are stepping down, though those elections aren’t expected to change the composition of the board the way replacing Hardy could, according to the Tribune.

There’s plenty of contentious issues ahead for the board: a rewrite of social studies standards this year, for example, and a revision of the health curriculum, including sex ed, in the coming years.

The 2010 rewrite of the social studies standards became something of a media circus after board members proposed a host of changes to the original teacher-authored standards. Members, for example, removed labor activist Dolores Huerta from a list of people who have exemplified “good citizenship” because they believed it was inappropriate to include a socialist.

Liberal advocates have panned the current social studies standards, which they say are overly politicized and ignore sound pedagogy.

The issue of sex ed is no less taboo in the Lone Star state.

A quarter of school districts didn’t offer sex ed at all, and 58 percent offered abstinence-only education; the state ended sex ed as a graduation requirement in 2009.

The Texas primary was the first of the 2018 cycle that will see a host of state elections with big ramifications for education, including 36 governors.

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