Michelle Palmer, a professional educator, is answering a call to higher service by running for the Texas State Board of Education District 6—an enormously important position that has a direct impact on Texas children.
District 6 covers more than half of the Houston metropolitan area, reaching as far north as Tomball and south to Bellaire, River Oaks, and the Heights. The Texas State Board of Education includes 15 members who are elected for four-year terms, with each member representing about 1.8 million citizens. The Board sets policies and curriculum standards for Texas public schools, which makes them a constant source of controversy. Recent curriculum recommendations have included calls to remove references to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from history books, to downplay the role of slavery as the cause of the American Civil War, and to include a reference to Moses as an individual whose principles of government informed the creation of America’s founding documents.
“I am passionate about Texas state curriculum representing facts based on actual history and science,” Palmer states emphatically. “Recently, the State Board changed Texas curriculum to reflect non-factual information. For example, there is nothing in our science curriculum about climate change, but there are references to creationism.”
Palmer, who is 50 and identifies as bisexual, has a long history of working in all sorts of public schools in districts throughout the Houston area. She is especially passionate about teaching history, government, and science classes.
“I spend a lot of time teaching my students critical thinking to help them discern fact from fiction. They need to understand what is true, and the State Board of Education should not be working against that goal,” she states.
Palmer has received endorsements from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Victory Fund, Harris County Tejano Democrats, Harris County Young Democrats, Black Lives Matter Houston, and the Houston Chronicle. “Palmer’s years as a teacher in area schools, including Aldine ISD and Houston ISD, have made her familiar with curriculum issues and will bring a rare perspective to the board: that of an active teacher,” the Chronicle endorsement noted.
In addition to her willingness to go to bat for Texas students, Palmer has seen exactly where additional school resources are needed. While she is an unrelenting fighter, she also has a comfortable, gracious demeanor—qualities that will serve her well as she “reaches across the aisle” on a matter of deep concern to her: the state’s health curriculum.
“Abstinence-only sex education is failing the students of Texas,” Palmer states flatly. “Texas ranks seventh in teen pregnancies. We wouldn’t [have so many unplanned pregnanices] if we had a comprehensive sex-education program in our schools. When the board votes on the new health curriculum, they must vote for one that includes comprehensive sex education.”
Anne Sung was a highly regarded teacher in the Houston Independent School District before she assumed her position on the HISD Board of Education in 2017. Sung says Texas needs Palmer on the Texas State Board of Education for the sake of our children.
“Michelle Palmer is an outstanding teacher who is passionate about empowering students. She not only teaches them about government, she also shows them how to be civically engaged,” Sung explains. “Michelle has dedicated her life to working with the Houston students most at risk of dropping out from high school, and I know her as a steadfast advocate for systems that will help all students succeed. Houston needs her voice at the table on the Texas State Board.”
Palmer sums it up: “The students of Texas deserve a better education than Texas has provided them over the last two decades. I know firsthand the potential that our students can achieve if they are properly equipped with the strongest tools that we can give them. As an educator, I know that the curriculum is one of the most powerful tools that we bring into the classroom. I look forward to working closely with my constituents and the Board members to bring accuracy and efficacy back into the hands of our students with an improved curriculum. Only then can Texas graduate the best students possible.”
For more information, or to contribute to Michelle Palmer’s campaign, go to palmerfortexased.com.
This article appears in the October 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.