One of three Republican State Board of Education (SBOE), District 9 candidates came to answer questions January 11, 2016 at the Canton Tea Party sponsored candidate forum held at the Church of Christ on Big Rock in Canton, Texas, where 200 constituents attended to hear local candidates in races for the State House of Representatives, Van Zandt County Sheriff, County Commissioners, Tax Assessor, and Constables. Mary Lou Bruner is from Mineola, and has two contestants listed on the ballot: Keven M. Ellis from Lufkin and Hank Hering of Lindale. Bruner was the only who attended.
In her opening statement Bruner shared her qualifications. She has worked in Texas Public Schools for 36 years, and retired in 2009. Bruner has served in every area of the school from grades K-12, taught Kindergarten, special education, and she worked as an educational diagnostician. She believes that her experience has taught her what the problems are in public schools. “I know most of the things taught in school because I’ve taught them… I learned that if they couldn’t learn to read in the regular classes, that phonics was what they needed,” said Bruner.
A few years ago Bruner and her husband went to testify before the SBOE, and there was a group there that wanted to do away with teaching phonics and grammar rules, claiming the children would just pick it up when they hear good speech. Bruner pointed out, “Well, they don’t always hear good examples of speech. They don’t pick it up. You have to teach it on purpose.”
She also expressed concern over those in education who have sought to do away with teaching handwriting and the multiplication tables, claiming students can use a calculator. “I just think we need to get back to basics,” she said, “and we need to teach children a good foundation, and when they grow up, they can decide whether they want to be a boy or a girl. They shouldn’t be taught that at school.” At this, many in the crowd laughed and several said, “Amen.”
The first question, asked by moderator Andrew Vaughn of Andrew Vaughn Law Firm was, “What is the main impact of the State Board of Education on the lives of everyday voters?”
“It’s very, very important. These are your children! What is more important to you than your children?” she answered passionately. “When you leave them at school, you want them to be taught like you would teach them at home, and they’re not being taught like that. They’re being taught inaccuracies in history and in science. They’re taught that evolution is the only theory. It’s not even taught as a theory. It’s taught as a fact. They don’t test the strengths and weaknesses of it. To believe it, you have to believe that there is no God.”
Bruner worked as a special education counselor and said, “I’ve counseled with children who have had two mommies, and they’re very disturbed. I can tell you, it is not good for them.”
Moderator, Timna Rutledge of The Northeast Texan online news source asked, “What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the SBOE in the coming term?”
Bruner answered instantly and decidedly, “The threat of the federal government taking over the State of Texas. Common Core is all across the United States. It’s not supposed to be in Texas, but it’s sneaking in through the back door. It’s called other names. They change the names…. We need to have local control.”
Vaughn asked, “If there was one thing you could change about our education system in Texas, what would it be and why?”
“There’s so much,” Bruner began. “I think that the teachers need to have more input, and I think that the parents need to have more input. When my husband and I testified before the State Board of Education (SBOE), they did not want parents down there. They only wanted to hear from so-called experts. Arnie Duncan from the United States Department of Education came down to Texas to tell us what we should be doing; and liberal professors from California, they came over to tell us. I think Texas people need to represent Texas values. We don’t need the federal government to tell us what to do in Texas.” The crowd applauded.
Bruner next answered a question about the purpose of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). “ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind…. I was an educational diagnostician when that came into effect; and it was not good. They started teaching in groups. They let the children teach each other, instead of the teacher teaching the children directly. So, everybody in the group got the same grade, so nobody got left behind. Well, they didn’t all learn the same things. It’s socialism in the classroom, is what it is.”
Discussing the importance of parents voting in the SBOE race on the ballot, for their children’s sake, Bruner also encouraged parents to help students with their homework and know what they are studying and learning about in school, so they can hold schools and elected officials accountable.
The next question: Can you identify and explain the elements of Common Core, as they affect Texas schools?
“Common Core has been brought into every subject area. I mentioned some things about the English, Language Arts program, what they’re doing with phonics. They want to make everything easy, so every child will succeed, and…in math…math is fuzzy math. They make them go through a long process, and to them the process is what’s important, not getting the right answer. In social studies, they want to start teaching American History after Reconstruction. They don’t want to teach about the Founding Fathers, our Constitution, and our Declaration of Independence. They really believe those were rebel rousers and troublemakers… They want to manipulate their minds and teach them an ideology, instead of teaching knowledge and facts, and teaching them to analyze and to think for themselves, and to come to conclusions for themselves.”
She concluded and advocated teaching students patriotism in history. “At the end of the day, we need to make them be proud of the country they live in… If they don’t want to live here, let them go find one better. I don’t think they’ll be able to find one that’s better.”
The Primary Election is March 1, 2016.