Several-term incumbent Tom Maynard of the State Board of Education could have his hands full this primary season facing off against challenger Mary Bone.

Bone currently serves on Round Rock ISD’s board of trustees, having won her seat in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns. She has a PhD in systems engineering and previously worked at the Defense Department. At present, she works for NASA.

She told The Dallas Express that some of the issues she has seen in her district can be found in other school systems around Texas, which motivated her to run for the State Board of Education (SBOE).

She said that some trustees are setting their academic goals too low and are not currently being held accountable for the low-performing schools in their districts.

“Really my number one issue is academics, the overall achievement of our students and them being career-, college-, and military-ready. I have a senior actually that’s in high school, in a public school, and we see that these students are not prepared,” Bone said.

A large number of Texas students failed to meet the Texas Education Agency (TEA) college, career, or military readiness criteria during the 2021-2022 school year. For example, only 59% of students met these standards at Dallas ISD.

Blaming the abrupt pivot to online learning and school closures in 2020 prompted by COVID-19, the TEA opted not to publish accountability ratings for school districts and campuses for three years. While it did end up releasing the ratings for the 2021-2022 school year, dozens of districts managed to get the publication of last school year’s ratings blocked in court after TEA updated its grading methodology, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

“[That’s] four years of school districts not being held accountable. That’s a whole high school career for some of these students. We have parents who don’t even know where their students are [academically]. … A key priority for me is that we get a grasp of how to hold school districts accountable and how we ensure that our students are prepared,” Bone said.

“I think the biggest hurdle is going to be taking a step back and realizing the power of the State Board of Education and the responsibility, getting the State Board of Education to own its responsibility for the education system in Texas moving forward,” she said.

Bone said that SBOE has basically “abdicated” its responsibility in some regard, leaning on the TEA.

“In 2021, Gov. Abbott actually sent a letter to the SBOE and … directed them in the letter to remove the pornographic books from the libraries at all the public schools and SBOE did nothing,” Bone said. “And that includes the current incumbent [of SBOE District 10]. They did not respond, did not use their voice, and they kind of abdicated that to TEA.”

Bone further criticized Maynard, who chairs the SBOE’s Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund, for allowing the sovereign wealth fund that finances public school operations to decline on his watch.

“I believe it’s time to actually use your voice as an SBOE member and actually change lots of these things that are happening in our schools and support the local trustees that are trying to do good work at their local districts,” Bone said.