AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The bill that would expand the ban on teaching critical race theory concepts in Texas classrooms passed a Senate Committee on State Affairs hearing 5 to 2 on Tuesday.
It’s one of the governor’s priorities this special session, even though the bill itself does not contain the words critical, race or theory.
“The bill would prohibit teaching concepts that one race or sex is superior to another, that one race or sex should be held to blame for actions committed in the past by other members of that race or sex,” Republican State Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) said, defending the bill in Tuesday’s hearing.
“No teacher we’ve heard from wants to teach those things. We have seen words creeping into teaching materials. And so we want to make sure we’re teaching the truth and the whole truth to our students,” Rep. Hughes said.
He and other Republicans say the bill is meant to keep racist ideologies out of the classroom, while Democrats say it would perpetuate them. That leaves teachers like Austin Plock somewhere in the middle, deciphering.
“I don’t think it actually stops a teacher from per se adding, you know, they want to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez in their class, I don’t think it’s going to prevent them from having those discussions with students. But I guess if a teacher felt uncomfortable talking about those individuals, they would not be required to have to teach them in the class,” Plock, a high school teacher in Pflugerville and a member of the Texas State Teachers Association, said Tuesday.
He teaches social studies and is worried the bill could keep some teachers from teaching about key historical figures.
“I am concerned that it’s going to take key historical figures out of what we teach here in history that I really hate to think that we’re going to remove civil rights figures from the 1950s and 60s from our US history curriculum,” Plock explained.
The Association of Texas Professional Educators said the aim of the bill is unclear. ATPE opposes the bill, not because of the content, but because of what it does to the process of deciding what goes into Texas curriculum.
“When we let the legislature start writing curriculum in social studies or math or reading or science or any other issue, it cuts parents out of the process, it cuts teachers out of the process, and it bypasses a well-developed process that the State Board of Education has created over the past several years,” Mark Wiggins with ATPE explained.
“If there is a debate to be had on curriculum, that debate should be held before the State Board of Education, not the legislature,” Wiggins added.
Even if the bill does make it to Gov. Abbott’s desk, it does not outline how it would punish teachers who do not abide.
“I personally have not heard of anything that the state would actually take action against the teacher,” Plock said.
The bill now awaits debate on the Senate floor.