Texas State School Board Recap: Moses, God, and Critical Race Theory Dominate Debate; Time to Act is Now.

This week, the elected Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) met in Austin to hold a special meeting on the draft proposals for updating Social Studies teaching standards for K-12 public school students that are being revised this year. Unelected workgroup members typically have the role of reviewing current teaching standards and then make recommendations about what should stay in and what should be erased from History and Social Studies. The 12-hour hearing included remarks from unelected content advisors and work group members, elected officials from other branches of government, and four hours of public testimony, that including remarks from Texas Values policy experts and many parents across the state. No vote was taken during the meeting, but board members had lengthy discussion after public testimony about their dissatisfaction with the drafts that the workgroups produced. The SBOE members will meet in four weeks during the week of August 30-September 2, to take their official first vote on the Social Studies standards.

Before the public was allowed to testify, the SBOE invited several elected officials from other branches of government to speak. The Honorable Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court gave a presentation on how the Social Studies standards must include adequate information about the judicial branch of government and how he had concerns about whether the standards provide sufficient information on this subject. Texas Senator Bryan Hughes testified and defended his legislation that was passed last session to stop the teaching of Critical Race Theory. In response, Senator Royce West and Representative Harold Dutton testified on their disagreement with Senator Hughes’s legislation. Senator Hughes’s legislation was up for debate since a copy of his bill was given to the unelected workgroup members to help them draft the standards. Nevertheless, the last-minute addition of the Workgroup E draft showed evidence of Critical Race Theory.

Public testimony began after the 5 hours of invited testimony. During this time, Texas Values team members made the SBOE aware of the many deletions of religious and Judeo-Christian references throughout the Social Studies subjects, the insertion of LGBT agenda and advocacy in the standards, and new standards that have a Critical Race Theory message. You can read more about our concerns here. One major issue our team raised during testimony was the deletion of the national motto “In God We Trust” from the U.S History standards for high school students, which our president noted was under attack for removal in 2010 and 2014. Texas Values also pointed out that the Governor just recently signed SB 797, authored by Senator Bryan Hughes, that requires the national motto “In God We Trust” to be prominently displayed in every public-school classroom. When a member of the community raised her concern about “In God We Trust” being struck, Democrat member Georgina Perez argued that the phrase has been struck before and must be left out for a reason. This is not correct though. In fact, “In God We Trust” was recommended to be removed before by a workgroup member but elected SBOE members always voted to keep our national motto in the teaching standards. At that moment, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) representative noted that when “In God We Trust” was removed from the U.S. History standards, there was intention to move the phrase to a lower grade, but this task had not been completed. The TEA representative said that the workgroups will need to “go back” and add it to the lower grade; however, she did acknowledge that the phrase was struck through in red. For reference, any standard struck thru in red is a deletion.

Many parents testified about their concerns with the standards, which included whether standards were developmentally appropriate and how much Texas History would be taught. Some left-leaning testifiers advocated for LGBT history to be taught to public school students.
Once public testimony concluded, the SBOE began a lengthy discussion about how to move forward in directing the unelected workgroup members on drafting the standards. Many conservative SBOE members expressed disappointment in the standards presented before them. Some concerns were about the content covered in the standards. Other members were concerned about the new framework that teaches history chronologically and would remove the 4th Grade standalone Texas History course. Many SBOE members are concerned about needing more time to complete the K-8 standards and not rushing to vote for the standards this November. There is an expectation that there will be different members on the SBOE after the November elections. Nevertheless, one good outcome of the discussion was the consensus that the SBOE stop the workgroup E draft that was focused on Critical Race Theory.

The board will meet again the week of August 30- September 2 to make a preliminary vote on the standards. Texas Values concerns remain the same until new drafts are published by the workgroups showing our requested changes. Please follow us at txvalues.org for more updates and information, and continue to email, call, and communicate in any way you can your concerns to your elected SBOE member before it’s too late. Remember, government belongs to those who show up!

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