Explainer: The Texas Legislature’s Bill to Whitewash History

SB 3 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, is a substantial rewrite of HB 3979, which passed at the end of the regular legislative session in May. The bill maintains many of the same problems in HB 3979, including a ban on schools requiring instruction on current events and topics some politicians think are too controversial. Revisions in SB 3 include:

Section 1:

  • Creates a “Civics Training Program” to tell professionally trained social studies teachers how to do their jobs, emphasizing the law’s censorship requirements.
  • The highly politicized State Board of Education (SBOE) must approve the training program annually. The SBOE is the same body that resisted teaching the truth about slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War.

Section 2:

Strips out explicit requirements the House added to HB 3979 to ensure classroom instruction reflects historical truths, including:

  • The history of white supremacy and its immorality, including slavery, the eugenics movement and the Ku Klux Klan
  • The history of Native Americans
  • Women who played important roles in our nation’s founding
  • The writings of numerous people of color in American history
  • Key events, documents and historical figures important to the civil and equal rights movements

Section 3

  • Reinforces highly subjective restrictions on how teachers can teach about the legacy of racism and discrimination in American history.
  • Strengthens prohibitions on class credit for student civic engagement, including bans on credit for volunteering for social or public policy advocacy organizations. This removes an important educational strategy for helping students learn about how citizens can bring about change in a democratic society.
  • Gives the Texas Education Agency unprecedented power to ensure schools teach in “a manner consistent” with social studies TEKS (curriculum standards) adopted under the bill’s censorship provisions.