AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas State Board of Education’s preliminary vote today to approve minimally revised social studies standards first adopted a dozen years ago is a surrender to political pressure from those opposed to teaching the truth about the state’s history and diversity.
“This decision represents a real failure of leadership and political courage,” said Carisa Lopez, political director for the Texas Freedom Network. “Bowing to the dishonest attacks from critics opposed to standards that help students better understand the diversity of our state and nation is bad enough. But it also means the social studies education of Texas students will continue to be based on flawed standards adopted three presidents ago and without any reference to major events that have brought dramatic changes to our society and the world around us in the last decade.”
Social Studies Overhaul Derailed
The state board last year launched the first overhaul of the social studies standards since a deeply controversial and politicized revision in 2010, during Barack Obama’s first term as president of the United States. Those standards guide instruction in all grades. Beginning late last year, official teams made up of teachers and scholars spent months drafting proposed new standards.
The proposed drafts represented significant progress in addressing the contributions and experiences of the diverse communities that have shaped Texas and the United States. They also dropped some exaggerations and myths Republican state board members had inserted into the standards in 2010, including the claim that Moses from the Bible was a major influence on the U.S. Constitution.
But over the summer, far-right activists and groups assailed those changes in an avalanche of misinformation and outright falsehoods. Those critics called on the board to scrap all of the work on the drafts and kill the overhaul. In August the board’s Republican majority did just that, voting to consider only minimal revisions to the current standards. At the same time, the board punted a major overhaul to 2025 at the earliest.
In September state board Republicans rejected efforts by Democratic members to make additional improvements and updates to the standards.
The state board must confirm today’s preliminary vote and take a final, formal vote on adoption of the minimally revised social studies standards on Friday.
Earlier in today’s meeting, a board majority voted to call on the 2023 Legislature to reject efforts to divert tax dollars from public schools to private and religious schools through any voucher scheme. State Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have said they will push to pass a voucher scheme next year.
“Today’s vote against private school vouchers should send a clear message to lawmakers,” Lopez said. “Draining tax dollars from our neighborhood schools to subsidize private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers is such a terrible idea that even the Republican-controlled State Board of Education opposes it.”
The Texas Freedom Network (tfn.org) is an organization of community and religious leaders and young Texans who support equality, social justice and public education.