Texas state senators are considering a bill to expand restrictions on social studies courses in all public grade schools — the latest GOP push against critical race theory-based teaching, the Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday.
The new legislation comes despite concerns from Texas educators and the absence of most Texas House Democrats who have brought lawmaking in that chamber to a halt, the news outlet noted.
In May, Republicans in the state House rallied to pass a bill limiting how teachers can discuss race and current events in social studies courses — and barring them from awarding course credit for social or political advocacy work, the news outlet reported.
The new law, set to go into effect in September, says teachers can’t be forced to discuss current events or controversial topics of public policy — but if they do, they have to explore it from “diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective,” the American-Statesman reported.
But on July 8, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called lawmakers back to the Capitol to work on pending GOP priorities.
As part of the special session agenda, Abbott asked lawmakers to continue the work started in the House bill; divided along party lines last Friday, the Senate gave final approval to a broad measure expanding the House restrictions to any subject in grades K-12, including ethnic studies courses.
It was passed on an 18-4 vote, with nine Democrats missing — all of whom joined House Democrats in Washington in a protest over GOP voting bills.
But the American-Statesman noted the House can’t accept the bill because the Democrats’ voting bill protest in Washington, D.C. has robbed the chamber of a necessary quorum to vote on the issue.
The expanded state senate bill also requires teaching the country's founding documents and maintains a ban on The 1619 Project, the New York Times’ initiative that exams slavery in the founding of the United States, the American-Statesman reported.
According to the news outlet, some educators have concerns.
Keven Ellis, chair of the State Board of Education, told lawmakers he didn’t think the bill would ban anything in its own curriculum standards — including its courses on African American and Mexican American studies. But he suggested adding an amendment to clarify that.
"We will continue to bring forward those courses and teach that history," Ellis said of the state's ethnic studies courses, noting the board has also called for courses focusing on Native Americans and Asian-Pacific Islanders, the American-Statesman reported.
Renee Blackmon, president of the Texas Council for the Social Studies, told the news outlet she’s worried opportunities for students to be engaged in civics could be limited under the restrictions against student advocacy.
“We might be taking some steps towards some good civics education, but it won't be as robust as it could be,” she told the news outlet.
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