Mary Lou Bruner and Hank Hering, competing candidates for the district 9 seat on the Texas State Board of Education, appealed to voters Thursday night at forum in the Grayson County Courthouse.

Mary Lou Bruner and Hank Hering, competing candidates for the district 9 seat on the Texas State Board of Education, appealed to voters Thursday night at forum in the Grayson County Courthouse.


Keven Ellis is also running for the District 9 seat on the State Board of Education. Ellis was not present at the Texoma Patriots forum in Sherman due to a scheduling conflict, event organizers said.


The candidates gave eight-minute speeches and voiced similar perspectives on the state of education in Texas, and how they would go about finding solutions for the many problems they see facing the education system.


Bruner spoke first. She is a retired teacher with a long career in Texas public schools. She lives on a farm near Mineola in Smith County, not far from her competitor Hering, who is a software systems engineer.


Based on her career in the school system, Bruner said, she knows the issues facing the education system and her experience would be an asset for the State Board of Education. She said she wants to set curriculum standards to focus back on the traditional fundamentals such as memorizing times tables, phonics, grammar, spelling rules and cursive writing, which she said some schools have quit teaching.


"Our children are graduating from high school, and they’re not being prepared to go to college," Bruner said. "Our children cannot even write their names in cursive in some high schools."


Bruner said she wants to see the education system return to its core conservative values and teach children like how parents would teach their own children.


"I think we need to teach Bible and there are some people who want to throw out Bibles, grammar and spelling rules," Bruner said. "They think the kids will just pick those things up. I’m telling you they don’t pick it up unless you teach it."


The parent voice is not being heard on the state level, Bruner said. She wants to see more involvement from the community and those who know the needs of the children the best — the parents, she said.


"I want the citizens to become alarmed about what is going to happen in school, it’s already happening in some of them," Bruner said. "I want you to get involved and come to the State Board of Education and express your opinions."


Bruner called for the need to teach Texas values and be open and honest to students by creating curriculum based on solid principles. She said in the past some TV media outlets have poked fun at her for her perspective on this issue and her Christian values.


"We weren’t born yesterday, we know that global warming is a hoax," Bruner said. "I think we need to teach truth in education and not lie to our children and lie to the public."


Both candidates said the board of education is limited in its scope. Bruner said while the position doesn’t have a lot of power, it has a platform. She said she can utilize that platform by speaking to people, going to community meetings and setting the record straight on what’s going on in the State Board of Education.


Besides setting curriculum, another responsibility of the State Board of Education is reviewing and adopting textbooks. Bruner said the board tries to make textbook publishers yield to standards put forth by the board. She said the textbooks usually only have about 60 percent of the curriculum the board wanted.


"We need to be more strict with our textbook companies and make them do what we told them to do," Bruner said.


Bruner was adamantly opposed to common core standards and she said Texas law forbids a common core curriculum to be taught in schools. She said the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was federally signed into law last December, is unconstitutional and is common core by another name. She said the federal government is trying to force Texas schools by taking their money away.


"If they want to teach something different in California, I might not like what they teach up there, but it’s really not my business," Bruner said. "What we teach in Texas is our business. We need to keep the federal government out of Texas schools."


Hering said he agreed with Bruner on most of her stances. In the first section of Hering’s speech he also called for a return back to the basics of education and teaching to the needs of a child on a more personal level. He said the current education system treats children like a product, a product of system he said doesn’t adequately prepare children for college.


Hering said he recently became an empty-nester as his youngest daughter graduated from high school. He said she was ranked ninth in her class in one of the better school districts in east Texas, but she felt unprepared for college.


"Why? We’re teaching to a test, we are not teaching children," Hering said. "We have a closed minded structure."


While the school system is falling short in some areas, Hering said home-schooled children are grasping the foundational teachings and excelling because they are being taught by people who know the children. He said home-schooled children are being taught the basics in an environment rich with Biblical teachings, which he believes the public school system needs to replicate that environment to some degree.


"Those basics are more known in the scriptures than they are anywhere else," Hering said. "The basics are there, we do not need education to tell us how to do that."


Hering said the board also oversees the state’s primary school fund, and taxpayers need someone on the board who is going to keep a watchful eye on the money.


"We must get back to a moral self government that is implicated and affected by the education system," Hering said. "That system must be very carefully watched, monitored and look at very cautiously for we the people, we the taxpayers and for our children."


The Texoma Patriots conducted a straw pole of those in attendance. Out of a total of 26 ballots collected, Bruner received the most with 18 votes, followed by Hering with six votes and Ellis with two votes.