UH alumni compete for State Board of Education position
Two UH alumni are competing against each other in the upcoming Nov. 8 election to represent the Texas State Board of Education District 6.
Incumbent Will Hickman, a Republican, is up against Democrat Michelle Palmer for the second time after the two faced off in the 2020 election, with Hickman beating Palmer by 2 percentage points.
Palmer recently spoke at a Student Government Association-sponsored event.
Hickman wants to draft a new course that gives middle school students the opportunity to take career aptitude tests and work with counselors to develop their skills.
This comes after noting how 40% of high school graduates don’t feel ready to further their career or education once they graduate, according to the College, Career and Military Readiness program.
Hickman notes his special interest in career and technical education programs and Texas’s abundance of courses, as he believes they are beneficial regardless of the career one is going into.
Palmer said her stances are “180 degrees” from how Hickman would vote. If elected, one of the first things Palmer wants to get done is to call for change to the state’s social studies curriculum, which was recently controversially delayed by the board, along with administering new textbooks that include the teaching of climate change.
Palmer also wants a health curriculum to be required to graduate that includes lessons on sex education, LGBTQ health issues and the teaching of consent.
“Texas has one of the highest rape instances in the country,” Palmer said. “And it has been shown that states that do teach consent have a lower, at least date rape, incidents because students understand that it’s not just violent rape that’s rape.”
Reasons for running
As a father of three children, Hickman wants to have a parent’s perspective on the board and said that he has the best interest of all Texas kids in mind when making decisions about their curriculum. He has also received endorsements from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state representatives.
“We work hand in hand with the state Legislature to get things done,” Hickman said. “I think that’s important to have a good working relationship with the Capitol.”
Palmer first ran against Hickman in 2020 when the seat was open. As a high school history teacher, Palmer discovered factual inaccuracies in the curriculum, something that she hopes to change if elected.
“It wasn’t something I went looking to do, but I saw a need and jumped in,” Palmer said. “And I plan to run for it until I win it because my students deserve better than they’re getting.”
While first attending Texas A&M University, Hickman later went to UH and earned three of his five degrees, most recently earning his Spanish B.A. Hickman also received advanced degrees from the UH Law Center.
“My philosophy about education is that education is preparing you to do something,” Hickman said.
Palmer graduated from UH in 1994 and double-majored in political science and Russian studies. During her time at UH, Palmer served as speaker of the Student Government Association Senate and worked with other political organizations.
“The knowledge that I gained through my many political science classes, obviously helped me to understand the way that the political system works and to be able to work within it and to fight against it,” Palmer said.
Correction: A previous version of this story had incorrectly stated that both Hickman and Palmer attended the SGA-hosted event. This version of the story has been updated to reflect the change.