A State Board of Education trustee who campaigned on righting a ship he felt had listed too far to the right announced Monday he will not seek re-election to represent Gregg and Northeast Texas counties.
Republican Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant said he will serve the remainder of his term to December 2016.
“I’m not going to go quietly in my last 18 months,” he added. “I may be a duck, but I’m not considering myself lame.”
The State Board of Education chooses textbooks for public education and oversees the nearly $40 billion Permanent School Fund.
The textbook selection process had drawn international media attention when Ratliff decided to seek office, as far-right conservatives fought off mention of climate change in textbooks, and insisted they teach that Moses greatly influenced America’s founders and include creationism in science texts.
A moderate Republican, Ratliff set out to ease political partisanship on the nine-member elected board. The 31 counties in his District 9 are home to 1.6 million Texans and more than 180 school districts.
“When I first decided to run, it was right after the somewhat infamous social studies adoption,” Ratliff said, noting he was the only member with children in public school when he took office. “The majority of the board at the time, to me it felt like, was more motivated by politics and ideology than by education. In my 4 1/2 four-and-a-half years so far, we’ve got, including me, eight new members that weren’t there when I got there. I think that has helped as much as anything. And, we’ve got people on there that have kids in public schools, have family members who work in public schools.”
Ratliff wanted a closer relationship between the sometimes distant board and educators on the ground.
“I have been and will continue to be an advocate for local control,” he said, noting his support for legislation that which allowed school districts to pick their own textbooks without losing state funds to buy them. “Now, they get the same amount of money, The state gives all the money to the district and says, ‘You determine what you’re going to buy with it.’ We’re going to let 7,000 elected (school) board members run their districts.”
Ratliff is the son of former Sen. and acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. The elder Ratliff wrote much of today’s Public Education Code and school finance formulas. His brother, Republican Bennett Ratliff of Coppell, is a former state representative.
Thomas Ratliff said he had no political office in his future sights. A lobbyist for several companies including Microsoft, he said he will continue pursuing that career — without taking fire from political enemies who accused him of using his office to benefit clients.
“I’ll continue to earn a living,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about getting attacked for who I am or what I am. … I think, by and large, I can look behind me and say I accomplished a lot of good things.”