The majority of the time was spent listening to testimony from policy professionals, TEKS draft workers, and parents both concerned and pleased with the proposed standards.
The discussion began with testimony from Ethnic Studies work group member Mohit Mehta, PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. These drafts, labeled “work group E,” outlined standards for standalone African American, Asian American, and Mexican American studies courses.
“As teachers and scholars, we know that social studies has not always included the histories of [minority groups]. There are those in this room who will label any effort to implement responsive curriculum as an example of critical race theory (CRT),” he addressed the crowd.
“This is falsely misleading. There is not one single mention of critical race theory, nor is any standard in violation of SB 3. We had constant discussion and vetting to make sure we were within the guidelines of Texas state law.”
After the initial round of testimony, the discussion grew more contentious and unruly. At multiple points Chairman Keven Ellis had to ease tensions in the room, calling for silence and respect for speakers.
“Members of the public, we will not allow this. This is not how our board does business. We have never had other situations like this and we will not have outbursts,” he told the audience.
One main point of opposition was the lack of year-long Texas history courses in the fourth and seventh grades. Conservative board members and testifiers expressed concern with this lack of emphasis on the state’s unique history.
SBOE staff member Monica Martinez claimed that she listened to concerns regarding the lack of Texas history in K-8 drafts and took steps to fill gaps in the social studies curriculum to adequately teach the subject.
Testifiers also raised concerns over the lack of American history and emphasis on American exceptionalism in elementary school TEKS.
“We are not building a firm foundation for our children,” Julie Pickren, Republican candidate for SBOE seat seven remarked. “We have to train our children in what their culture is. It is E Pluribus Unum, it is out of many one. They have to be educated to know that they are Texans and Americans.”
Opponents of the drafts also claimed that the proposals did not fairly portray the history of the United States. They claimed that this paradigm would breed hate for the nation and disillusioned citizens.
Speaking on this topic, Michael Barba from the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation told the board, “The purpose of our public schools is to establish our constitution, and to diffuse generally the knowledge needed to preserve the liberties and rights of the people.”
“Our children should marvel at our accomplishments, including the American Revolution, victories in world wars, and the Civil Rights Movement. They should know the rarity of stable, popular self-government. But the wonder must be sober. We must know of the failures of our political ancestors.”
“With these goals in mind, the work group drafts fall far below expectations. The drafts are another example of our schools strained into ideology, thereby decreasing the quality of education.”
Former Republican Texas House representative Rick Green told the board, “When you pass these standards, are the students who learn this material going to be capable of defending the rights and values of the United States, or do they become revolutionaries bent on destroying the nation?”
Green alleged that the current drafts of the ethnic studies courses contained CRT and that the emphasis on race in the larger drafts infused the now-banned idea.
Carisa Lopez, political director of the Texas Freedom Network, rejected these allegations.
“As you are considering these drafts, I urge you to reject the avalanche of falsehoods and misinformation filling your inboxes,” she asserted.
“Here are some facts: The proposals ensure that students learn the July Fourth holiday, Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. However, teaching slavery, the efforts to overcome discrimination, and the dark parts of our past do not violate any law. That is just the truth.”
Some board members, namely Marisa B. Perez-Diaz, publicly accosted parents bringing concerns over the proposed TEKS. She asked them to specifically point out their issues in the hundreds of pages of drafts.
Speaking to a parent who raised concerns over the TEKS characterization of the border and the border patrol, Perez-Diaz said, “If you knew about what you were testifying about, you would be able to point to what TEKS you were referring to. What do you know about borders? What were you taught in school?”
“This country did not always have borders. We are sitting on stolen land. We need to understand our indigenous roots. What do you remember learning about Native American history? What do you know about borders?”
As the meeting drew on into the evening, it became clearer that the mountain of opposition would prevent the adoption of the TEKS by the year’s end.
Originally, the board had planned to close the meeting by moving the drafts forward to a first reading or sending them back for revision.
Instead, the board held a preliminary vote to throw the drafts out altogether and delay revisions to the TEKS. The motion passed 7 to 2.
The final vote to postpone the TEKS revisions is set for Friday, September 2.
Boardmember Aicha Davis opposed the motion, telling the board, “We are sending drafts back every time. And now we’re here in September, saying the work groups haven’t accomplished the directives we gave them. What do y’all want the work groups to do? They have accomplished everything with fidelity.”
Perez-Diaz also decried the motion, claiming that it would eliminate thousands of hours of work by the work group teams who labored on the drafts.
The board did elect to amend some of the existing TEKS to be consistent with Senate Bill 3, the so-called CRT ban. They also voted to use the drafts discussed at the meeting as a starting point to inform their future discussions over new TEKS.
New discussions for social studies TEKS will begin in 2025 if the final vote passes.
Update: The final vote to postpone revisions to Social Studies TEKS until 2025 passed, and the TEKS will only be revised to meet the requirements of SB 3. The official ruling “[establishes] that the SBOE will spend the next two years, until 2025, investigating to inform the framework [of the TEKS].”
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Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.