Collin County Politics: Down Ballot Races Matter

November 30, 2021

Covid Update: Collin County has 132,045 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 538 more cases than I reported last week and 1,163 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 5 people who died since last week). While the decrease in cases is hopeful, we must remain vigilant especially since we have a new variant – omicron – and it’s now in North America. I honestly don’t know how people thought it wouldn’t get here. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that Covid is hardy, highly transmissible, and loves to travel the globe. Vaccines may still give protection and masks certainly will, so please keep those masks on!

State Board of Education: If you think this board is non-partisan and has the best interests of our children in mind, think again! When debating the not-insignificant topic of health, the board approved one set of health materials for middle and high schools but only after the publisher agreed to remove content on gender fluidity and prioritize abstinence over contraception. It’s possible certain board members were swayed by a vast majority of the 50-plus public speakers furious that their precious darlings might learn in school about topics like gender identity, abortion, masturbation, and sexual arousal (once again, Democrats did not show up). It’s not like teens won’t learn about these topics at all; they’ll just get information from their peers and the internet. What could go wrong?

One would hope that a board dedicated to education might actually follow the science but, with Republicans dominating the board, that won’t happen. Research consistently shows that teaching adolescents about contraception not only does not encourage adolescents to have sex but also decreases the rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In contrast, abstinence-only education is correlated with higher rates of pregnancy and STDs even when holding other factors constant. But Republicans never allow facts to get in their way of kowtowing to their overlords. Republican Tom Maynard admitted that “the Governor’s office is very concerned about us adopting nothing, and then just leaving school districts to just find their own way.”

I’m sure Republican board members were comforted by the thought that parents could still prevent their kids from learning anything (in school) about sex education. As board member Matt Robinson pointed out, a new state law created a mandatory “opt-in” requirement for sex ed instruction. School districts are now required to obtain written consent from parents or guardians before any sex-ed instruction can be given. If I recall correctly, it used to be an “opt-out” requirement. Opt-in is a much higher hurdle for schools to get over.

And that was just for the middle and high school curriculum. In their infinite wisdom (on a 6-6 vote), the board failed to give final authorization to elementary school health materials. Thus, there are no state-adopted instructional materials on health for the 6,700 elementary schools in Texas. At first, it looked like they’d adopt the QuaverEd materials (on a 7-6 preliminary vote) because they didn’t address sex education in any substantive way. Instead, materials addressed topics like mental health, responsible decision making, a balanced diet, and good hygiene. QuaverEd even attempted to address some board members’ concerns by removing a social-emotional learning component and some passages dealing with suicide and self-harm. We certainly wouldn’t want kids learning about those from knowledgeable adults, preferring instead that they get information from social media, peers, and the internet. Those parents insisting that kids don’t think about self-harm and suicide unless they’re brought up in schools are delusional.

However, despite QuaverEd’s attempts to accommodate their ridiculous requests, Republican Will Hickman still changed his vote. School districts will now have to ensure they teach all of the required health standards — Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) — without a state-approved textbook. Districts must try to vet their own elementary health textbooks and ensure that whatever they choose meets accessibility standards, such as having materials in braille, large print, and audio. That process can run as high as $130,000 per title, something districts with fewer resources may not be able to afford.

There are several takeaways from this debacle. First and foremost, Republican leaders are failing our children in multiple areas. Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies in the country. Perhaps we should try to address that with programs that actually work. Additionally, both STDs and suicide are on the rise, especially for adolescents. We shouldn’t be hobbling young people by failing to provide them with vital information about their health. Yet that’s what Republicans are doing. Second, we must vote all the way down the ballot. Every race matters! Third (yes, I know this is a familiar refrain), we must start showing up. The Republican mob always does and we don’t want their voices to be the only ones heard. We must email, call, postcard, and talk to our SBOE representatives. Our kids’ futures are on the line!

Collin College Board of Trustees: It keeps getting worse for Collin College. Another employee is suing the college, this time for retaliation and discrimination on the basis of race and disability. Keith Otto claims his supervisor created a hostile work environment leading to his wrongful termination. Racial disparities do seem to be a problem for the college as an Asian female administrator accused a provost of race-based discrimination and a black female professor resigned earlier this year, alleging years of racial harassment. All this is in addition to the two lawsuits filed earlier in the year by professors alleging free speech violations. If they keep this up, they may run out of qualified professors and employees. Then how will they adhere to their Students First policy?

Plano School Board: It sounds like the board will be forming a citizen’s committee to re-establish its governance priorities. Each board member will likely be submitting a few names for the committee, so if you or anyone you know wants to serve on that committee, now would be the time to reach out to trustees.

Liberal Women’s Action Network (LWAN): If you enjoy reading these columns, please join LWAN (men welcome). I can’t write these columns without a lot of help! If we want true change, we must know what’s going on. That means monitoring every city council and school board in Collin County. This is something anyone can do and it’s interesting work. Please contact me at and let me know if you’re interested.

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