Just as the deadline to qualify in the race for the District 5 seat on the Mobile County School Board was approaching, incumbent Dr. William “Bill” Foster got a last-minute challenge from Theresa Lucas Hubbard.
Hubbard left active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard as a lieutenant commander, and continues to serve in the reserve program. Though she and her husband have lived in several locations during their respective military careers, they settled in Mobile in 2004.
Hubbard claims she has since been involved in the community and in local politics through the Republican party and the Tea Party movement. She’s also a board member of Alabamians United for Excellence in Education and works with the conservative publication Alabama Eagle Forum.Hubbard explained that as a mother, she’s always had an interest in education.
“We’ve raised six children throughout all of our travels, and I could give you six different stories about six different educational systems,” Hubbard said. “Today, I have a grandson attending Baker High School.”
Yet, Hubbard doesn’t shy away from the issue that motivated her interest in policy, the Common Core standards that have been part of Alabama’s curriculum since 2012. Specifically, Hubbard mentioned Alabama’s recent drop in the ranks of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is the largest nationally representative educational assessment.
According to NAEP results from 2014, Alabama students in the eighth grade ranked 50th among 52 jurisdictions in math, while fourth-graders ranked 47th. In 2015, the scores have continued a downward trend and remain below the national average.
Hubbard said those numbers contrast with strides in NAEP scores the state reported in 2011, just a year before it adopted the “College and Career Ready Standards” that include elements of Common Core and some curriculum specific to Alabama.
“I’ll go ahead and say it: I’m opposed to Common Core, but I’m also reasonable enough to know there are probably some good things about it that need to be salvaged and used,” Hubbard said. “Though if we’ve gone from 25th to 50th nationally since 2011, something needs to change.”
In addition to the grades, Hubbard has recently spoken out in national publications about other concerns with certain materials aligned with Common Core. In September, Hubbard told Breitbart News that a Southern Poverty Law Center program called “Teaching Tolerance” incorporated “the goals of Common Core with the goals of those who want to change our traditional American culture.”
Hubbard was specifically referencing the book “10,000 Dresses” by Marcus Ewert, which she says was listed in the reading texts appropriate for students in grades K-2. In short, “10,000 Dresses” about a young boy who wants to make dresses, and it’s described on Amazon as “a modern fairy tale about becoming the person you feel you are inside.”
Speaking with Lagniappe, Hubbard said she felt introducing that type of subject matter at an early age was “more about indoctrination rather than teaching tolerance.
“I’m all for tolerance, but what I don’t like to see happening are teachers having the responsibility of covering topics that should be discussed with parents,” Hubbard said. “I have nothing against how a person chooses to live, but that’s a topic that’s still pretty sensitive to many people, and it’s not the responsibility of the SPLC to provide that type of study material in the classroom without parents knowing.”
If elected, however, Hubbard may find herself the lone dissenter against Common Core among the Mobile County School Commissioners. As recently as last year, the board unanimously passed a resolution opposing a bill that would have allowed school systems to opt out of Common Core.
Yet Hubbard said she doesn’t mind being the outsider, adding that her perspective would bring “a new set of eyes” to the school board.
“In the makeup of the board, there’s businessmen, educators, community leaders, but there’s no one claiming to be an advocate for the parents and the students,” Hubbard said. “A lot of parents don’t know what’s going on. They just trust the schools and the school board. I’m not saying they shouldn’t, but more information needs to be forthcoming.”
Speaking to a few local issues, Hubbard said she hasn’t yet made a decision on charter schools, adding that she’s “heard both good and bad things.” She did, however, say local boards should have some input in the process, which has been a recent discussion in Mobile County.
Prospective charters are approved by an authorizer, and though it initially delayed a transition into that role, the county school board has plans to apply for authorizer status in 2016.
“If there’s going to be charters, the board should have some input into that because it appears just about anybody could be an authorizer,” Hubbard said. “I’d rather see the school board be [in that role] so that we have some oversight into how the charter school is run so we can be sure the right kind of curriculum and the best practices are being used.”
Recently, local parents have addressed the school board about the equitable distribution of school resources and commissioners’ responsibility not to their respective districts, but to the entire school system. In that regard, Hubbard pointed again to her experience in the Coast Guard — something she said is “all about teamwork.”
“Each person needs to keep their individual districts in mind, but at the same time, you have to look at the big picture for all of the students across the spectrum,” she said. “That takes team work and a cooperative attitude to work with other board members and the superintendent to assure resources are going where they need to and they’re being spent wisely.”
Hubbard will face Foster in a Republican primary election on March 1, 2016, the only election for the position as no Democratic challengers have qualified.