Proposed changes to Texas education unintentionally leads to fine arts against technology debate

Education
A classroom (Getty Images)

A classroom (Getty Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Tuesday morning, the House Committee on Public Education held a hearing to address several proposed bills. One bill, H.B. 434, relating to the curriculum requirements for public high school students, drew a crowd to testify.

The bill, authored by State Representative Keith Bell (R-Athens), proposes high school students could choose between a fine arts class or a career in technical education (CTE) class for their electives credit. 

Leading up to the hearing, concerns were raised on social media about the potential for fine arts programs to lose funding. The Texas Arts Education Campaign and Texas Cultural Trust tweeted form letters and asked followers to reach out to their representatives. State Representative James Talarico (D-Round Rock) mentioned his social media and phone lines were flooded with messages regarding the bill.

“My intent here is not to disparage the fine arts at all,” Bell said. “It’s about giving kids choices.”

The public hearing brought many testimonies. Among the supporters was Mike Moroney, speaking on behalf of the Texas Association of Manufacturers.

“We don’t want to force anybody to just check a box,” Moroney said. “We want them to be able to take the courses that they want to take in high school to prepare them for whatever’s next.”

There were several testimonies in support of the bill but many more opposing it. The opposition was largely made up of educators and parents. One testimony in objection was given by Lauren Anderson, the first Black principal ballerina in the Houston Ballet.

“Building a competitive workforce requires more than one skillset,” Anderson said. “Let’s not pretend that access is equitable for students in marginalized communities, because it is not. Substituting or removing learning is unacceptable and a disservice to a child’s education.”

After hearing all the testimonies, lawmakers agreed not to take action on the bill until they had more time to think about it. The committee discussed finding ways to provide funding incentives for fine arts the same way CTE courses are incentivized.

“I don’t like the feeling that we are pitting fine arts against tech,” said Representative Terry Meza. “I think both are important. I think the representative who authored the bill probably thinks that both are important. But, how do we encourage CTE without taking away from fine arts?”

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