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A Speech Pathologist Faces A Candidate Who Calls Himself 'Vulgar' In State Board Of Education Runoff

Via the campaign website (Popp)/Miguel Guiierrez Jr./KUT

A long-time educator and a man who calls President Donald Trump a “child rapist” are competing for the Republican nomination for a State Board of Education seat.

The District 5 seat includes parts of Travis County, San Antonio and the Hill Country. The winner of the July 14 runoff between Lani Popp and Robert Morrow will face Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau in November.

The 15-member State Board of Education creates curriculum and standards and approves textbooks for schools across Texas. It created and approved a statewide Mexican-American studies class last year, for example, and is considering a new African-American studies class.

Morrow said he is running for the seat because it would give him the "bully pulpit" to push for Trump's imprisonment for "raping 13-year-old girls with Jeffrey Epstein in the summer of 1994 at the Les Wexler mansion in New York City." The power of the SBOE doesn’t reach beyond creating curriculum for Texas schools.

Morrow has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for making racist and sexist comments, and denounced by all 10 Republican members of the board, including Ken Mercer, who decided not to seek reelection to the District 5 seat.

After Morrow qualified for the runoff in March, Travis County Republican Party Chairman Matt Mackowiak tweeted that he’d light himself on fire if Morrow won the nomination.  

“I admit, I am crude. I am vulgar on social media,” Morrow said. “That’s a very useful tool. I expose the bipartisan criminals – not the Republicans only, not the Democrats only, all of those bastards.”

In terms of curriculum, Morrow says students should be reading Roger Stone’s book The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, in which he makes the case that President Lyndon Johnson was involved in Kennedy's assassination.

Lani Popp did not respond to interview requests. According to her website, she has worked as a speech-language pathologist in schools for 28 years. 

When it comes to curriculum, Popp  told the League of Women Voters of Texas that class curriculum should be “historically and scientifically accurate and age appropriate."

“I believe a standardized test is not the best way to judge a person’s knowledge or abilities,” she said. “On any given day, a student may not be able to demonstrate what they know due to family problems, sickness, exhaustion or even hunger, to name a few factors. Also, many students with disabilities (high-functioning autism, ADHD, students with anxiety, etc.) may be brilliant but not demonstrate that on a test. We need to make sure we are testing basic skills, but we need to look at more than just a test.”

Popp has been endorsed by Mercer and many other prominent Republicans in the state,  including Gov. Greg Abbott.

Got a tip? Email Claire McInerny at Follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny .

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Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Claire McInerny
Claire McInerny is the education reporter for KUT. Previously, she was a statewide education reporter for NPR member stations in Indiana. She won an Edward R. Murrow award for a series she did there about resources for English Language Learners in the state’s rural school districts.