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In State Board Of Ed Race, Hardy And Mahroum Disagree On Whether To Teach Contraception

Texas Tribune
Incumbent Pat Hardy and tea-party challenger Eric Mahroum are in a runoff for a State Board of Education seat that includes Tarrant County.

Republican Pat Hardy of Fort Worth is fighting to keep her seat on the State Board of Education after 11 years representing parts of Tarrant, Parker and Dallas counties.

She faces tea party-backed challenger Eric Mahroum from Bedford in the May 27 runoff.  He claims Hardy has sided too often with moderate members of the board.

Hardy, 65, is campaigning on her 30 years of education experience as a social studies teacher and a curriculum strategist.  She says she’s been involved in education reform ever since the 1980s, when she campaigned for “no-pass-no-play” legislation that required athletes to pass their classes before suiting up.  

“I know a lot about education policy. I know all the players in education. I have the expertise and knowledge and the desire to do the job,” Hardy said at a recent GOP forum in Arlington.

Hardy nearly won the Republican nomination outright with 49.5 percent of the primary vote. Mahroum had 43.5 percent.

Hardy says a top priority if re-elected would be the smooth implementation of the diploma graduation program, which requires eighth graders to choose a subject area where they’ll concentrate their studies. Hardy believes more school counselors are needed to help students make the right choices.

“We simply don’t have enough counselors to do that job. So do they do (counsel) a few well or do they do all of them and not do a good job?”

Hardy’s 31-year-old opponent, Eric Mahroum, is an operations manager at a concessions company and the father of two daughters, one of whom is home-schooled.  He says his business background is needed.

“We need someone who has a budget experience and money experience to deal with the permanent school fund. We need someone who will protect it and build on it,” Mahroum said.

Mahroum told the Republicans gathered in Arlington he favors allowing schools to arm educators so they can be a first line of defense in the event of school violence.

He stresses his Roman Catholic faith, and believes schools should be able to display the Ten Commandments.

“I’m for that realizing not every child is going to have a Christian background but our country as a whole, we stem from the Judeo Christian values,” Mahroum said.   

Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors state board decisions, says this election comes as the board prepares to adopt standards that will determine how much students are taught about contraception and whether it’s included in textbooks.

“Right now, the standards require that students learn about condoms and other forms of birth control but the health textbooks in classrooms right now are almost entirely abstinence-only, not a shred of information about condoms or contraception,” Quinn said. 

“And that’s alarming in a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation,” he said.

Mahroum, who fathered a child at 16, tells KERA he opposes teaching about contraception. He says the topic should be handled at home.

Hardy says “knowledge is power.”  She says contraception should be taught, with local districts deciding how that should be done.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.