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This past week the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) gathered for their quarterly meeting in Austin, Texas. On their agenda was the final adoption of recommendations passed into law by the Texas Legislature in a special session in 2021 that would preserve American history and principles in Social Studies classes and avoid the teaching of the hotly contested critical race theory (CRT). While the SBOE voted earlier this year to delay a complete review and revision of the Social Studies standards for K-12 students, Senate Bill 3 by Senator Bryan Hughes, required that the SBOE adopt minor recommendations to strengthen the teaching of American history by the end of 2023. You can read more here.
The Texas Values team was present during the entire week of meetings and provided testimony on legislative priorities and the Social Studies TEKS. The November meeting for the Texas State Board of Education was a success in stopping a woke takeover of Social Studies.
Texas Values testified and asked supporters to email board members to encourage them to make no amendments that would stray from the charge given in Senate Bill 3. The goal was to avoid adopting any last-minute efforts by leftist board members to add amendments to the Social Studies TEKS that could be considered against the charge or related to critical race theory. However in a preliminary vote on Wednesday afternoon, nine members voted to accept the Senate Bill 3 recommendations while leftist members refused to vote.
On Friday, the SBOE voted to amend the implementation date for the changes SB 3 requires. The Senate Bill 3 recommendations will not be implemented until the 2024-2025 school year. Discussion by the SBOE detailed the requirement to adjust instructional materials to align with the changes and staff training on the changes. Nevertheless, if these minor changes do not take place until the 2024-2025 school year that calls into question if the SBOE will decide to review and revise the entire subject of Social Studies in 2025 as previously discussed.
In addition to making Social Studies free of CRT, the SBOE discussed their legislative agenda. Both the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education can set a legislative agenda that serves as a list of initiatives they would like to see passed in the upcoming legislative session. However, because they are a state agency, they cannot lobby for these priorities at the state capitol. There were strong priorities for parental rights and transparency in educational materials, but the SBOE made a surprising decision in priorities that would go against school choice and even Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s priorities.
The SBOE set some positive legislative priorities for the upcoming 88th Legislative Session. The SBOE wants to see legislation that would require all school districts to use materials recommended by the SBOE. Additionally, the SBOE would like to see the threshold of meeting 50 percent of the TEKS raised to meeting 100 percent of the TEKS when it comes to materials being eligible for consideration. This is an important priority as we have seen many school districts adopt radical sex education materials that were contrary to the Health standards or Health textbooks chosen by the SBOE. You may recall that some of the recommended textbooks from last year that only met 50 percent of the standards were full of comprehensive sex education, LGBT issues, and other topics that were rejected in the adoption of the Health TEKS. Texas Values testified in favor of this legislative priority on Wednesday and was pleased to see it adopted.
Despite making good legislative recommendations on textbooks and instructional materials, the SBOE made it a priority to oppose school choice initiatives. For example, the SBOE made it a priority to grant the members veto authority over charter school expansions and require charter schools to follow the same rules as independent school districts. The SBOE did not specify which rules charter schools have to follow. Charter schools typically self-govern due to receiving very limited funding from the government and also for the purpose of having the freedom to make independent decisions that will be better for students. In addition to adopting priorities that create obstacles for charter schools, the SBOE made it a priority to oppose “any attempts to divert public dollars away from public schools.”
In other words, the SBOE voted to oppose vouchers that would help students to attend a school of their choice, education savings accounts, tuition tax credits, and other means in which the money follows the child. The vote to oppose school choice funding passed 11-2 with one member abstaining. Member Will Hickman gave a speech before the board took a vote, imploring the members to not make it a legislative priority to oppose school choice funding. He reminded the board that legislators are working “right across the street” to pass laws that favor school choice funding and did not think it made sense to work in opposition. Nevertheless, the only members who did not agree with opposing school choice as a legislative priority were Tom Maynard and Will Hickman who voted “no” and Pat Hardy who abstained.
Overall, the November meeting for the Texas State Board of Education was a success in stopping a woke takeover of Social Studies. New members who were elected in November will be sworn-in in January. Please continue to follow Texas Values for updates on educational issues at the SBOE and the Texas Capitol by signing up for our updates and following us on social media.
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