Commerce – Local officials were on hand last night at the A&M-Commerce Alumni Center to hear a presentation by Thomas Ratliff, candidate for the Texas State Board of Education.
Ratliff (R), of Mt. Pleasant, is opposing incumbent Dr. Don McLeroy (R), of Bryan, for District 9. Ratliff is part-manager for a title company in Mt. Pleasant, as well as a lobbyist in Austin.
This was the first in a number of stops across the district where Ratliff plans to speak and hear the thoughts of local officials.
Issues addressed included the permanent school fund, creation vs. evolution, electronic textbooks, and in-state vs. out-of-state curriculum experts.
Concerning electronic textbooks, most members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) opposed a bill during the latest legislative session that allows local school districts to decide if they want to buy textbooks or electronic content, according to Ratliff.
"To not support electronic textbooks because you [SBOE members] think you control all the content in the classroom, tells me you haven't been in a classroom in a long time," says Ratliff.
He feels the SBOE should provide the funding and let the local school districts decide if they want to buy electronic content or the traditional textbooks with that money.
Ratliff is also opposed to hiring out-of-state experts to review curriculum standards, noting the recent appointment of Peter Marshall, a minister from Massachusetts, to review social studies curriculum.
"Why somebody from Massachusetts needs to come help us write our curriculum when we've got a lot of folks here locally, I just don't think it is the best use of our own resources."
Ratliff also addressed the controversial issue of creation vs. evolution, stating that if he had been a member of the SBOE during the recent legislative session, he would have voted with the majority to retain the existing science standards.
A big reason for the stop through Commerce and other area communities, according to Ratliff, is to find out what the local school boards need more and less of.
"I think part of the problem is too many of the decisions are driven out of Austin without input from the local school boards, rather than letting the local school boards sound off then tailoring once folks go down to Austin to represent them."
He questioned opponent Dr. McLeroy's efforts in reaching out to the community and listening to their needs, stating that of the approximately 85% of superintendents within the district he's contacted, several had never spoken with McLeroy.
Ratliff also addressed allegations that as a member of the SBOE, his job as a lobbyist would create a conflict of interest.
"I have never represented a client in front of the State Board of Education, and obviously never would, should I win this race... I am not running for this job to enhance my business, and in some ways it may hurt it, because there may be clients I will no longer be able to work for because of hopefully winning this race."
Ratliff plans to make additional stops in all 29 counties in the district, with stops already planned for Corsicana and Plano.
More information on Ratliff and his campaign can be found at www.thomasratliff.com. Complete audio of our interview with Thomas Ratliff is available at the top of the page.