SBOE Keeps “In God We Trust,” Rejects Radical Revision of Social Studies
Last week, Texas parents and students achieved a great victory at the State Board of Education (SBOE) with the pause on the review and revision of the Social Studies standards and the vote to reject Critical Race Theory. This victory comes after almost a year of fighting for accurate and sufficient history standards. Many drafts for proposals to the Social Studies Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) contained radical content and struck important religious liberty historical facts like our national motto “In God We Trust.” On September 2, the SBOE ultimately decided to reject the radical drafts by voting to delay the review and revision process until 2025. The SBOE also voted to reject the Critical Race Theory–centered ethnic studies courses and align current history courses with the newly passed anti-Critical Race Theory Law, known as SB 3.
The process of reviewing and revising the Social Studies standards was controversial from the beginning. Very early in the year, it appeared the new framework for Social Studies in elementary school would take away a standalone Texas history course in 4th grade. When the SBOE met in June, the unelected work group members had only completed drafts for high school Social Studies subjects. These drafts deleted references to Moses and religious freedom in the First Amendment to the Constitution, to name a few of the concerns. The most concerning deletion was of the national motto “In God We Trust” in the U.S History standards. There have been attempts to delete “In God We Trust” from the standards in the past. However, the Texas legislature recently passed SB 797 that requires the national motto “In God We Trust” be displayed prominently in school classrooms. Because the work groups were so far behind in their work, the board did not address concerns of the drafts at the June meeting and instead decided to hold a special meeting on August 1. At this meeting, hundreds of parents showed up to testify against the drafts of Social Studies standards. Despite the many concerns raised by parents across the state, the SBOE was still slated to have their first reading and vote during the week of August 30.
The Texas Education Agency did not post the latest draft of the Social Studies standards until a few days before the meeting, and when they did, it became clear that the unelected work groups did not clean up their drafts. Texas Values members attended the workgroup draft meetings. The new draft still had the same concerns, such as 8th grade students studying the Pride movement. Many parents also expressed concern about the focus on the tenets of world religions at a young age. Additionally, all of the concerns in the high school courses still remained. See a list of concerns here. In response to the remaining concerns, Texas Values reached out to supporters across the state to draw attention to the concerns with the current review and revision process. Texas Values also hosted a press conference with coalition partners, Rick Green, Patriot Mobile, and Moms for Liberty to address the board and request for the process to be slowed down.
The SBOE’s most recent meeting August 30th – September 2nd continued with hours- long debate from parents, grassroots members, and the Texas Values team about the unsatisfactory drafts presented by the workgroups. Following the public testimony period, Chairman Keven Ellis did not present to the board an opportunity for a first reading vote. Instead, Chairman Ellis made a proposal for two separate courses of action: (1) Continue with workgroup F draft with the current process (this would have been K-8 only) or (2) add the requirements from the anti-Critical Race Theory bill.
Following this proposal, many SBOE members expressed concern about the direction of the Social Studies standards. Vice Chair Pam Little commented that she felt the process was rushed and that she had not received emails from educators supporting the new framework. Many other conservative members shared the sentiment that there was regret for the radical results produced by the process. SBOE board member Sue Melton-Malone even said that teachers reached out to her asking her to not adopt the standards. On the other hand, democrat members became defensive of the work group members and felt it was unreasonable to ask for a delay. The debate between members resulted in a preliminary vote on 3 measures: (1) Only add the requirements of Senate Bill (SB) 3 to the current TEKS, (2) move the process of review and revision for Social Studies back 2 years, and (3) gather a committee to provide feedback on a framework for Social Studies.
This vote on the 3 measures passed with 7 in favor and 2 against. Multiple democrats walked out of the room for this vote believing they could break quorum, but forgot that one member was attending virtually, thus preserving a quorum. SBOE board member Will Hickman was one of the “no” votes but later proposed a newly drafted framework where students would return to having standalone courses on Texas History in 5th grade and 8th grade. Hickman’s proposal for a new framework for grades K-8 passed 8-5 in a preliminary vote.
Although the SBOE decided as a consensus to not move forward with the Ethnic Studies drafts, the SBOE needed to have an official decision. Member Pat Hardy made a motion that no changes be made to the Mexican American or African American studies courses and other ethnic studies courses that would like to be considered must submit an application for the course to the SBOE. This vote essentially stopped the drafts of ethnic studies that were drastically different than current courses on culture and contained critical race theory. This measure passed 12-1 in a preliminary vote.
The votes taken on Tuesday after testimony were only preliminary. There was still concern that Tuesday’s votes could change and with Hickman’s initial vote on the delay. On the final day of the four-day meeting, democrat member Aicha Davis invited three college students, who did not show up for public testimony on Tuesday, to testify during a general comment period in order to sway the vote on the Social Studies standards. However, Chairman Ellis had to repeatedly remind the testifiers that it was against board rules for members of the public to testify on the final day on agenda items for a vote. In the final vote to delay the review and revision of Social Studies until 2025, the measure passed 8-7. SBOE board member Hickman voted in favor of the delay, but Matt Robinson who traditionally votes with democrats voted against the delay. In addition to the delay, the SBOE plans to have a committee conduct research on an appropriate framework for teaching Social Studies moving forward. Prior to the vote on the delay, the board adopted Hickman’s proposed framework as a starting point for review and revision of the Social Studies TEKS in a vote of 10-4. The SBOE voted 14-0 in a bipartisan vote to modify the current Social Studies standards to align with the recently passed law SB 3, anti-Critical Race Theory law. The SBOE also decided in a bipartisan vote of 13-0 to stop the drafts for ethnic studies.
Last week’s victory at the State Board of Education was made possible by your support of the Texas Values team. Emails and public testimony from parents and supporters across the state also played a large role in last week’s final vote. Thankfully, our national motto “In God We Trust” was saved, along with important values in American and Texas History. The SBOE will look over the moderations for 8th grade and high school courses that will need to comply with SB 3. There is still a need to monitor these moderations as they are presented in November. Otherwise, Texans can look forward to a more solid process in 2025.