Texas’ history lesson rewrite delayed after conservative pressure

After mounting pressure from conservative groups, state officials officially punted Texas’ rewrite of how it teaches history until 2025.

Friday’s move comes after a marathon State Board of Education meeting earlier this week where conservatives urged its members to throw out the proposed social studies revamp.

The board’s 8-7 vote to stall the process and spend the next two years gathering more input fell largely along party lines with Democrats opposing the delay. The setback stalls the process until well after upcoming elections that could impact the makeup of the board.

Heated disagreements over what and how to teach history derailed the timeline for revising the state standards, known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS. It was originally expected to be voted on later this fall.

But board members were bombarded with emails and calls from conservative groups, urging them to change course and labeling the earlier proposals as full of critical race theory.

The Texas Freedom Caucus — a group of Republican lawmakers — sent a letter to the State Board of Education ahead of the Tuesday meeting, noting that they were watching the changes to history lessons closely.

Patriot Mobile, a conservative Christian wireless company that’s increasingly involved in several North Texas schools, circulated a petition that labeled the proposed standards as slanted by a “globalist view” and an attempt to push “gender fluidity, sexual orientation, and Critical Race Theory.”

While some of the newly-elected Republican board members pushed to stall the process, Democrats on the board lamented the delay.

Member Georgina Pérez, D-El Paso, said the pause was unacceptable as teachers need guidance on how to tackle controversial topics in the classroom to avoid attacks by some lawmakers, she said.

“Under the watchful eye of Senate Bill 3, our teachers want some assistance. They want some clarification,” she said, referring to a 2021 law that prohibits the teaching of certain concepts about race.

Legislators passed bills meant to keep critical race theory out of classrooms that also required developing a civics training program for teachers and largely barred schools from giving credit to students for advocacy work. It also urges educators to teach only that slavery and racism are “deviations” from the founding principles of the United States.

Many education advocates have said the new laws are vague and could hinder discussions about history and race.

The board did approve asking the Texas Education Agency to work with educators in drafting requirements to ensure existing social studies lessons meet those state laws.

Critical race theory probes the way policies and laws uphold systemic racism — such as in education, housing or criminal justice. Education leaders across the state repeatedly insist it is not part of K-12 lessons. However, many conservative pundits have conflated equity work in education — including multicultural lessons — with critical race theory.

Some educator groups criticized the board’s social delay calling it “disrespectful to Texas public educators,” especially those who volunteered time to help revise standards.

“The SBOE should incorporate educator input whenever the TEKS are revised,” Shannon Holmes, director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said in a statement “We will fight to ensure that the promise made by some board members is kept and educators remain at the table. The curriculum-writing process must not be usurped by political winds.”

Meanwhile, the board did decide to keep Texas and U.S. history classes in fourth grade and middle school — one of the major points of contention for those who spoke out against efforts to incorporate state history across multiple grades.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.

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