State Board of Education (SBOE) member Patricia Hardy, a Republican who has been representing District 11 for 20 years, is now campaigning for her sixth term.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Hardy had two more years remaining on her current term. However, because of redistricting, she is required to run for re-election in order to continue in her post.
“The reason they have to redistrict is due to the increased population in the state of Texas,” Hardy told The Dallas Express in an interview. “They want each of us to have approximately 15% of the population. So, they have to recalculate where the population is and fit 1.5 million people into everybody’s district.”
Some 582,000 new residents landed in Texas in 2019, according to the 2021 Texas Relocation Report.
“I didn’t lose that much,” Hardy said. “I just gained more. I only lost a little bit of Dallas County but even if you weren’t in the new district, I would help you because I am elected to this office until January of next year.”
The areas that District 11 gained include rural areas such as Hood County, Granbury, Somerville, Glen Rose, and half of Johnson County, according to Hardy.
“It’s kind of hard when you just find out that you’re redistricted and then you’re into a primary race,” she said. “There’s not much time in between. I’m heavily campaigning in the areas I’m most familiar with and I haven’t built the connections in those rural areas so I’ve got to reach out with a lot of push cards and mailings.”
Hardy serves on the SBOE’s Committee on School Finance, which oversees the Permanent School Fund. As a member of the Committee on School Finance, Hardy has also been appointed to the Permanent School Fund Corporation Board of Directors.
“I’ve been on the committee for probably 16 years so I’m very comfortable with what we’re doing,” she added. “There are five of us that are on the State Board of Education that are directors and the permanent school fund committee has taken on the role of directors along with the governor’s appointees.”
As the incumbent, Hardy faces three challengers in the Republican primary on March 1. They include Daniel Caldwell, Rebecca Garcia, and Joshua Tarbay.
“Every one of the people that are running against me have made very good points and I can agree with them on those points in many cases, but understanding education is so difficult,” she said. “You have to wrap your head around so many different areas that we deal with and there is an advantage to the incumbent seat. You’re just better at it naturally because you’ve been doing it.”
In addition to having years of SBOE experience, Hardy is well respected even by those who disagree with her conservative point of view.
“As much as I have several policy differences with some of the positions that SBOE Member Hardy has taken on the board, I think she has institutional knowledge of the curriculum process like the curriculum decision-making process at the board level,” said Jaime Puente, a policy analyst with Every Texan, a nonpartisan nonprofit.
For example, Puente views vouchers that allow parents to use public school funds to place their children in private schools as a massive defunding of public education.
“Public schools are vital to their communities,” Puente told The Dallas Express. “They are the biggest employer. They are the ways that kids get into top tier colleges, like the University of Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Public schools are the opportunity for rural kids as much as urban kids to advance themselves and that’s why public sentiment for public education is so strong in Texas, because we see the value and parents see the value.”
Hardy largely errs on the side of choice.
“I believe that every parent needs to be able to choose what they want for their child and what is best for their child and that includes every kind of school that we have, but I am not in favor of actual vouchers,” she said. “Ninety percent of our kids are educated in public schools. I think it would be a real strain on our system to start pulling kids out and the creation of a school over here or a school over there.”
Hardy was among the SBOE members who approved the Rocketship charter school application in June 2021 while rejecting other charter school applications that included critical race theory (CRT) in their educational proposals.
The school that Hardy and the Board approved will open in August in a predominantly African-American community of Fort Worth called Stop Six.
“We were made to give assurances as a part of our approval regarding adherence to all current and future legislation regarding CRT,” said SaJade Miller, superintendent of the Rocketship charter elementary. “We’re going to follow the letter of the law. We will not be distracted by trendy discussions that distract us from the business of ensuring all students, regardless of their economic, social, or racial background, are reading at or above grade level every single year.”
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, CRT curriculum, prohibited by HB 3979, includes teaching students that the history of America began with the enslavement of black people in 1619, not with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The 1619 Project is often a component of CRT. Based on a similar premise, the project is a journalistic endeavor by the New York Times to tell the stories of Black Americans, launched in 2019 for the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans’ arrival to the English colony of Virginia.
“My concern really was how things like Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project all intertwine with social studies and since that was my field, I feel like I need to stay and work with the board,” Hardy explained. “I am the dean of the State Board of Education in the sense that I have been around the longest. Being that social studies is a particular subject area that I’m very good in, that’s one reason I decided to go ahead and run one more time.”