87th LegislatureEducationState HouseTexas Lawmaker Looks to Require ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer’ at School Districts

The diversity officer's duties would range from student counseling to district-wide administration and rule-making.
March 25, 2021
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State Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) has filed a bill to place “diversity, equity, and inclusion officers” at every large public school district.

The bill describes four duties of the officer:

(1)  lead the district’s efforts to establish and sustain a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all students by addressing systemic inequities that lead to differences in student achievement;

(2)  support continuing education and training related to diversity, equity, or inclusion;

(3)  develop district policies, practices, and programs that champion the individual cultures, talents, abilities, languages, and interests of each student; and

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(4)  ensure that each student receives the necessary opportunities and resources to meet the student’s unique needs, abilities, and aspirations.

The diversity officer must either have “significant professional experience” working with special needs students or hold “an approved certification in diversity, equity, or inclusion.”

If passed into law, the bill would only apply to larger school districts. School districts defined as small or mid-sized according to the Texas Education Code would be exempt.

The relevant portion of code uses three formulas to define small or mid-sized schools based on average daily attendance (ADA) and, in turn, to determine how much money they receive in annual allotments from the state. School districts are exempt from the bill if they serve fewer than 1,600 students, or fewer than 300 students if they are the only district in a county, or fewer than 5,000 students if they offer a K-12 program.

The mean ADA across Texas sat at just over 4,000 students for the 2019-2020 school year according to a Texas Education Agency report, hosted here.

Diversity initiatives like Talarico’s are commonplace in higher education. Public universities in Texas set aside over $45 million for diversity and inclusion measures in the last fiscal year, with the University of Texas and Texas A&M taking the top two spots. Some historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions competed for the bottom of the list, allocating little to no money for such measures.

Though the Texas legislative machine has churned to a start after passing the 60-day markthe Texas House passed alcohol-to-go yesterday — Talarico’s bill has not yet been assigned to a committee. Talarico, a former teacher, sits on the House Public Education Committee chaired by Democrat Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr.

Talarico’s office has not responded for comment.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.