Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Gov. Abbott’s actions cost Texas an extra House seat, by Dudley L. Poston, Jr. & Rogelio Sáenz

It's really sad that Texas will not be getting either what should have been $493.5 million annually due to the U.S. Census undercount, or a third congressional seat.  Drs. Dudley L. Poston, Jr. & Rogelio Sáenz break it down for us:

"For every person not counted in Texas, the state loses around $3,500 every year. Multiply the $3,500 by 141,000, which we estimate is a rough number of the undercount in Texas, and you end up with $493.5 million per year that Texas will not get in federal funds. Multiply that by 10 and you get $4.9 billion that Texas will not receive in federal funds over the next 10 years."

$4.9 billion shortfall over the next decade is a terrible loss for Texans, whites included. Leadership, effort, and investment is what all of this would have required, but Abbott wasn't interested, unfortunately.

-Angela Valenzuela

Gov. Abbott’s actions cost Texas an extra House seat

By Dudley L. Poston Jr. and Rogelio Sáenz FOR THE EXPRESS-NEWS

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released population counts from the 2020 census. Six states will have more House seats and seven states will have fewer. Texas was the big winner, picking up two new seats in the U.S. House. But apportionment analyses that we and others conducted in 2020 indicated that Texas would gain three, not two, new House seats. What happened?

Starting in 2018, President Donald Trump and his administration attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, and they also tried to exclude undocumented people from the census count. These efforts sought to discourage Latinos from being counted and, we believe, that it worked.

The new data from the 2020 census indicate that there was a serious undercount in Texas, numbering almost 141,000 people. But in the state of California, there was an overcount of nearly 120,000. Latinos account for almost 40 percent of the Texas and California populations. Why, then, would California have an overcount and Texas an undercount?

The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, devoted over $187 million in a statewide outreach and awareness program focused on counting all California residents in the 2020 census. It worked; a lot more people were counted in California than was anticipated.

What happened in Texas? Gov. Greg Abbott and his Republican colleagues did not provide funds for a campaign to increase the state’s count. Abbott never even set up a statewide committee to work toward increasing the participation of Texans in the census. Unlike Newsom in California, Abbott did virtually nothing to get a complete count of Texans. The result: Texas lost its expected third new seat.

Not only did Texas not receive its third new seat, but the state will also lose a lot of money between now and 2030. How much?

The U.S. allocates to the states every year $1.5 trillion dollars in federal funds for a host of federal programs that are distributed based on their population counts. Texas receives more than $100 billion in federal funds every year based on the size of its population. We estimate that, owing to its undercount in the 2020 census, the state will end up losing more than $4.9 billion in federal funds between now and 2030.

For every person not counted in Texas, the state loses around $3,500 every year. Multiply the $3,500 by 141,000, which we estimate is a rough number of the undercount in Texas, and you end up with $493.5 million per year that Texas will not get in federal funds. Multiply that by 10 and you get $4.9 billion that Texas will not receive in federal funds over the next 10 years.

Getting a complete count of Latinos and other people of color was not a priority of Abbott and Texas Republicans. The result is that Abbott’s inaction cost Texas the third congressional seat and tons of federal funds.

Or was that Abbott’s plan? Abbott is well-versed in the practice of leaving on the table federal funds designated for people of color and the poor. He and his fellow Republicans have deployed numerous strategies to suppress the vote of the growing Latino population and other groups of color. And he has waged wars against the state’s major cities, where people of color are concentrated. Abbott is a shrewd politician who we doubt was blindsided by the realization that his actions cost the state its third congressional seat and $4.9 billion in federal funds.

These are the political and economic costs associated with Republicans maintaining their hold on the politics of our state. Latinos who were not counted in the 2020 census will help Republicans maintain political domination when they start redistricting in the fall. This is yet another way in which Abbott and his fellow Republicans have sacrificed the interests of Latinos, Blacks and the poor to stem the Latino demographic wave that threatens to turn Texas blue. The fact that whites, too, get hurt by not getting the third congressional seat and foregoing $4.9 billion in federal funds represents collateral damage.

It makes no sense, politically or economically, not to count every Texan in the decennial census. Given Abbott’s track record for consistently choosing politics over the interests of Texans, we suspect he would not alter his actions if he were given another chance. The big losers are the people of Texas.

Dudley L. Poston Jr. is an emeritus professor of sociology at Texas A&M University. Rogelio Sáenz is a professor of demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Rep. Mary Gonzalez questions the bill author of HB 3979


Texas State Representative Dr. Mary Gonzalez' testimony yesterday evening was powerful, as were other legislators like Rep. Talarico, and Rep. Jarvis Johnson, who in last night's floor debate in the Texas House said that there is “not one agency that has compelled a teacher to teach critical race theory, so this author literally is legislating nothing — an overreach of power.”

The problem today is that this awful bill got voted out of the House at 1AM this morning and is closer to becoming law, as well as "an expensive mess," as laid out in this IDRA flyer. Also do note here the 68 organizations opposing this legislation:

It is not at all an exaggeration to say that bills like these put our democracy at risk, representing the opposite of democratic schools where young people are encouraged to be active, deliberative, participating members of their communities. 

This statute minimally creates a vacuum in the understanding of our nation's history, making students vulnerable to authoritarianism and extremism all because white legislators feel uncomfortable about our nation's inescapable white supremacist legacy. Squandered is the opportunity for democracy to take on not just accurate, but also new, invigorated meanings as Rep. Gonzalez and others so eloquently expressed yesterday evening.

All of this lays bare why we must redouble our efforts to vote, get the vote out, and weigh in on voter suppression bills so that we can be better represented in our halls of government.

-Angela Valenzuela


Texas public schools couldn’t require critical race theory lessons under bill given initial House approval

House Bill 3979 is part of a national effort by red-state legislatures to ban or limit critical race theory. That academic discipline examines how racism has shaped legal and social systems within the United States.

“House Bill 3979 is about teaching racial harmony by telling the truth that we are all equal, both in God’s eyes and our founding documents,” Toth said as he introduced the legislation on the House floor Monday.

Repeatedly invoking critical race theory, Toth later asked: “Do you want our Texas kids to be taught that the system of government in the United States and Texas is nothing but a cover-up for white supremacy? Do you want them to be taught a souped-up version of Marxism?”

Democrats blasted the bill — as well as Toth — as uninformed. He got perhaps the strongest pushback from Rep. Mary González of Clint, who said she studied critical race theory as part of the doctoral degree she earned two years ago.

“We are making very real decisions about access to educational resources without even having a full understanding of what we’re talking about,” Gonzalez said, “and I can speak to this because I literally spent 10 years getting a Ph. D. in this in which I have seen the opposite of what you’re talking about happen, that compassion and love stem from this theory, stem from this research and stem from the academic writings” related to it.

Democrats also took issue with — and unsuccessfully sought to remove — parts of the bill that would limit discussion of current events in the classroom, prohibit private funding for social studies courses and prevent teachers from requiring for credit any work with an organization involved in legislative lobbying or political activism.

Toth nonetheless accepted several amendments from Democrats expanding the list of “founding documents” that the legislation says should be included in teaching. For example, one of the amendments added a slew of documents related to the civil rights movement, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and his “I Have a Dream” speech.

At the same time, Toth added an amendment to the bill banning mandatory teaching of The 1619 Project, a program developed by The New York Times Magazine that is based on critical race theory. And at Toth's urging, the House rejected a Democratic amendment to ensure students learn about the deadly U.S. Capitol riot earlier this year. Toth said the amendment had "nothing to do with the bill."

Around 70 education, business and community groups across the state have voiced their opposition to Toth’s bill, citing concerns that it would discourage civic engagement and chip away at local decision making within individual communities.

“This bill would restrict local control with our school districts and affect how teachers discuss current events with their students,” the North Texas Commission, a public-private partnership of education and business groups wrote in a letter opposing the bill. “This legislation conflicts with current learning standards which allow teachers to bring emerging topics to the classroom for discussion and critical thinking.”

Rep. Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, decried HB 3379 [sic] as “tyranny” shortly before the vote Tuesday morning.

“We have come to this body and have made the decision to tell our teachers how and what to teach,” said Johnson, who is Black, adding that there is “not one agency that has compelled a teacher to teach critical race theory, so this author literally is legislating nothing — an overreach of power.”

Kate McGee contributed to this story.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Voting groups fear Texas about to exceed Georgia's limits by Stef. W. Kigh | Axios

It's been that kind of legislative session. We must get Congress to vote on the "For the People Act (HR 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Why? This piece in Roll Call says why: 

Why Congress must pass HR 1 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act:Republican state legislators nationwide are already moving fast to restrict our freedom to vote

This should be a priority for the federal government.

-Angela Valenzuela

Voting groups fear Texas about to exceed Georgia's limits

Stef W. Kight

Voters in El Paso, Texas, wait to cast their ballots in the 2018 race between Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Ted Cruz. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Local advocacy groups, big business and former presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke are fighting a pair of Texas voting bills they brand as suppressive, each of which could pass the Republican-controlled legislature as soon as next week.

Why it matters: Advocates say Texas' pending changes are worse than those that recently caused an uproar and boycotts in Georgia. The fight comes as the Texas population is rapidly growing and diversifying — and turning more Democratic.

  • "So much of what we learned about Georgia, we learned after it was too late," O'Rourke told Axios. "In Texas, if there's anything positive about the situation, it's that we could still win this."

Driving the news: Republicans have the political muscle to pass the provisions whenever they want. "Hands down something is going to get passed," Chris Hollins, a former Harris County clerk who opposes the bills, told Axios.

  • Democrats and groups like Texas Freedom Network and the ACLU are ramping up the pressure. After seeing the outrage from big business over the Georgia bill, groups are trying to get major companies to speak out and force Republicans to back off.
  • Texas is already considered to be one of the most restrictive voting states. It saw the highest voter turnout in 30 years in 2020 but came in 44th of the 50 states for turnout rate, according to data from Elect Project.

What to watch: American Airlines and Dell Technologies have already come out against the bills.

  • Advocates have been pressuring other Texas-based companies to get on board, and they expect to see more speak out in the coming days.

Details: The bills in the Texas Senate and House would end 24-hour and drive-thru voting — options that were disproportionately used by voters of color last year, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project.

  • They also would add criminal penalties for election officials who send out applications to vote by mail to voters who had not requested them and would provide more access for partisan poll watchers.
  • The changes would especially impact more progressive Texas cities, the New York Times reported.
  • The sweeping legislation has been pushed by Texas House Elections Committee Chairman Briscoe Cain — who drove to Pennsylvania to help the Trump campaign fight the 2020 election results.

The state of play: The House bill — HB-6 — is already out of committee and could make it to the floor as soon as next week.

  • The Senate bill — SB7 — was passed at the start of this month. It is now expected to be voted on in committee in the House as soon as Thursday evening after Cain brought it up at the last minute, Charlie Bonner, communications director for the nonpartisan advocacy group MOVE Texas, told Axios.
  • Republicans also have a flurry of duplicative, piecemeal bills ready to roll if the bigger packages fail.

The other side: Texas Republicans have pushed the legislation, saying that it will normalize voting across the state.

  • In response to American Airlines' opposition to the Senate bill, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released a statement, saying, "The majority of Texas supports maintaining the integrity of our elections. ... Senate Bill 7 includes comprehensive reforms that will ensure voting in Texas is consistent statewide and secure."
  • Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement: “Texas is protecting the number of early voting days, which is longer than allowed in states like New York and Delaware. And, we are extending hours for early voting."
  • "Also, Texas ensures that voting by mail is protected from fraud, which is important."

University of Texas Faces New Outcry Over Old Song With Minstrel Roots

Here is the latest on the "Eyes of Texas" song. The humiliation of African Americans regarding the song would seem to matter. It was disturbing to read the threat of violence against Dr. Alberto Martinez, as well as a comment by a donor who said, 

"It is sad that it is offending blacks,” the donor wrote. “As I said before the blacks are free and it’s time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor.”

How is that an appropriate response to a very real concern? It reflects the same offensive, "othering" mentality of the song itself. As UT Classics professor Dr. Tom Palaima notes, once we know the truth, it really should set us free.

Hence, if we would only heed history, real freedom is for all.

I'm glad that our students are speaking up.

-Angela Valenzuela

University of Texas Faces New Outcry Over Old Song With Minstrel Roots

Many students want “The Eyes of Texas” to go. Wealthy alumni insist it should stay. The dispute has become a flash point as universities struggle to deal with traditions spawned in earlier eras.

Fans singing “The Eyes of Texas” at a University of Texas football game in Austin in November.

Jay Janner/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

By Edgar Sandoval and Simon Romero

May 7, 2021

SAN ANTONIO — For generations, the fight song at the University of Texas at Austin has been etched into the state’s very fabric. For students, the words “the eyes of Texas are upon you” have been sung before and after every sporting event and commencement. Beyond the campus, the song is ever-present at weddings and funerals — and even space, where it was a wake-up call for astronauts on the Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions.

But since last summer, the anthem, which was first performed in 1903 at a minstrel show by white students who were likely in blackface, has divided the Longhorn community, pitting administrators and wealthy donors against students and faculty who want the university to abolish it and write a new alma mater.

University leaders had hoped to quell the uproar over “The Eyes of Texas” after a committee issued a report in March determining that the song had “no racist intent.” But after administrators doubled down on the position that it would remain a central feature of university life, tension has escalated, with student campus tour guides going on strike, pleas from Black legislators to lose the song and threats by wealthy alumni to cut off donations if that were to happen.

Handwritten lyrics to “The Eyes of Texas,” composed by John Lang Sinclair. A university committee’s report concluded that the song debuted in Austin in 1903 at a student-organized minstrel show.Credit...John Lang Sinclair, Texas Composers Collection, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

The dispute over the song has emerged as a flash point as universities across the country struggle to deal with traditions spawned in earlier eras. Many undergraduates at the flagship campus in Austin, the Texas capital that is often viewed as an oasis of progressive values in a state where Republicans wield immense power, have expressed disdain over the song’s enduring presence.

“We are constantly told that this is a liberal university,” said Bithia Dantoumda, a junior majoring in studio art and journalism who has closely followed the rancor generated by the song. “But this controversy contradicts what the university is saying.” 

Ms. Dantoumda, who is Black, added, “I definitely do not feel accepted.”

While some at the university have long complained about the song, the discussions about its origin gathered force after athletes at the school asked last year that it be abolished, part of a broader questioning of racist symbolism at the institution.

Administrators responded to some of their concerns, renaming a building named for a racist professor and commissioning a monument to some of the school’s first Black graduates. But as the whirlwind intensified, the university’s president, Jay Hartzell, made it clear in a public letter that the song would stay, saying it “should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values.”

He also formed a 24-member committee to study the matter. The committee’s report echoed previous findings that the song debuted in Austin at a student-organized minstrel show, an American form of racist entertainment in which predominantly white performers in blackface depicted African-Americans as dimwitted and often happy to be enslaved in the South.

The report also found that the composer of “The Eyes of Texas” borrowed the melody from “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” which was inspired by “The Levee Song,” a minstrel tune about using Black laborers to build levees across the South. White students at the university, which remained segregated until 1956, regularly performed the anthem at blackface minstrel shows that continued until the mid-1960s.

Despite such origins, the report contended that the song emphasized “accountability,” celebrating its emergence at birthday parties and county fairs in Texas. The university said its Longhorn band would still be required to play the song at sporting events, though students who declined to do so would be allowed to join a new marching band that would not perform the anthem.

J.B. Bird, a university spokesman, summed up the institution’s position on the song in a brief statement. “‘The Eyes of Texas’ is and will remain our alma mater,” Mr. Bird said.

After the 58-page report was published, members of Texas’ Legislative Black Caucus met with Mr. Hartzell, the university president, and demanded again, unsuccessfully, that the song be discontinued. “It’s not whether you have to sing or not, it’s humiliation that requires you to be there while others stand and sing and pay homage or honor to a racist song,” Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas N.A.A.C.P., said at a news conference about the dispute.

Students who work or volunteer as campus tour guides for prospective students followed up with a letter to the university asking that a plaque with “The Eyes of Texas” lyrics be removed from the Admissions Welcome Center. (Administrators had already changed the name of the student tour organization last year to “Texas Tour Guides” from “the Guides of Texas,” which was closely associated with the song.)

When administrators said the plaque would stay, more than 50 of the guides — about half of the students in the organization — refused to work.

A student walks past the Main Building at the University of Texas at Austin. Credit...Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Jeremiah Baldwin, 19, a sophomore who had been a guide since his freshman year, said he walked away last week from giving tours because he hoped it would encourage administrators to listen to him and other Black students. The position of university leaders, Mr. Baldwin said, “has been a little disheartening.”

“I personally love being a tour guide,” he said. “We go out and talk about the university because we genuinely care. We just want our voices heard.”

Kirstin McGeary, 19, met Mr. Baldwin when both enlisted as tour guides in 2019 and hit it off as friends. But over time Ms. McGeary, a sophomore and a business honors and chain management major, came to disagree on how best to deal with the song’s painful history.

“Nobody can dispute that the song has a racial history,” said Ms. McGeary, who is white and plans to continue as a guide. But if the plaque with the lyrics were to be taken down, “there would not be an opportunity to learn. Let’s use it to educate and learn from our past.”

Anna Epstein, 22, a tour guide who is about to graduate with a major in corporate communications and business ethics, said it was important for her as a white student to support her colleagues of color by joining the strike.

Ms. Epstein said that in her mind, the contested issue has an easy fix. “Just go down there and remove it with a screwdriver,” she said.

Dozens of powerful graduates have also made it explicitly clear where they stand. In emails obtained by The Texas Tribune, several threatened to cease donations, especially for athletic programs, if administrators yielded to the protests.

In one email, a 1986 graduate whose name was redacted by university officials said, “It’s time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost.”

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas N.A.A.C.P., was disappointed that the university’s leaders have refused to change the alma mater. “It’s not whether you have to sing or not, it’s humiliation that requires you to be there while others stand and sing and pay homage or honor to a racist song,” he said.Credit...Eric Gay/Associated Press

“It is sad that it is offending blacks,” the donor wrote. “As I said before the blacks are free and it’s time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor.”

Some outspoken faculty are also seething over the university’s inaction. Alberto Martínez, a University of Texas historian specializing in the history of science and mathematics, wrote his own report on the song, documenting not just how it was originally performed by white students mocking African-Americans, but how the Confederate general Robert E. Lee may have inspired its title.

“The song that was beloved in the 1980s, or the 1930s, is not beloved that way anymore,” Mr. Martínez said. “What we see is an obstinate refusal to change.”

The Texas Orange Jackets, a service organization founded in 1923 whose membership is composed of women and nonbinary students, hosted a virtual talk last week with Mr. Martínez. But the meeting was disrupted when someone wearing a face covering and grasping a shotgun joined the online discussion.

“This is a really frightening thing,” said Mr. Martínez, who said the episode unnerved him enough to request armed security guards as he administered final exams on Thursday. Citing the type of tactical shotgun brandished by the person who interrupted the virtual talk, he added, “This is the kind of weapon that you wouldn’t use to hunt deer.”

Allyson Waller contributed reporting. Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Edgar Sandoval is a reporter with the National desk, where he writes about South Texas’ people and places. Previously he was a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania & Florida. He’s also the author of The New Face of Small Town America (Penn State Press). @edjsandoval

Simon Romero is a national correspondent based in Albuquerque, covering immigration and other issues. He was previously the bureau chief in Brazil and in Caracas, Venezuela, and reported on the global energy industry from Houston. @viaSimonRomero

A version of this article appears in print on May 8, 2021, Section A, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Despite Outcry, University of Texas Keeps a Song With Minstrel Roots.  

Saturday, May 08, 2021

GOP demands removal of "1619 Project" from grant programs

As is evident in Texas' House Bill 3979—about which I have been blogging of late—the current attack on the teaching about racism in our state's Social Studies classrooms is a national campaign reflected in bills that are getting filed by republicans across the country. 

I appreciate how award-winning teacher, Jesse Hagopian, notes the importance of the very history like the "1619 Project" that republicans seek to silence for teaching the truth about history. 
He, like teachers generally, I presume, refuses to lie to his students about the truth of our history. 

Moreover, Hagopain is right in saying that the teaching of this curriculum is actually about empathy and solidarity for improving society.

We're not just teaching about oppression," he says, but also about a long history of talking across race and difference so that we can achieve great understanding across difference in a deeply divided world and society. Just as with any problem, if one doesn't name it, one cannot solve it. 

Incidentally, House Bill 3979 is up for a vote on the House floor this week. Please reach out to whoever represents you to register your views and concerns. I particularly hope that educators speak up since this directly impacts their classrooms.

-Angela Valenzuela

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Texas Republicans target 'critical race theory' with bill to muzzle teachers on racism, sexism

Glad to see more press coming out on this horrible HB 3979. I wholeheartedly agree with University of Houston history professor Stephanie Boyce who is also affiliated with the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators (TABSE) that rather than restricting student activism, “We should be trying to find ways to make these processes more inclusive, to bring students into the process even more.”

Republican leaders think that "boundless prosperity" is possible without youth ever getting to know too much about the political process. I'm sure this isn't what they thought about with respect to their own children acquiring the skills of political engagement. This is a totally veiled attempt, as I comment herein, to disenfranchise our youth through their own miseducation. 

-Angela Valenzuela

Texas Republicans target 'critical race theory' with bill to muzzle teachers on racism, sexism

Jeremy Blackman, Cayla Harris, Austin Bureau

May 6, 2021Updated: May 6, 2021 8:41 a.m.

Carisa Lopez, representing the Texas Freedom Network, delivers her message to the media outside after speaking to the State Board of Education as it hears comments on proposed changes to the state's social studies curriculum at its meeting in Austin on September 11, 2018.

Tom Reel, Staff / Staff photographer

After months of denouncing calls for the country to more fully reckon with its discriminatory roots, Texas Republicans are joining national conservatives in a push to restrict how teachers can talk about race and racism.

A bill that supporters say will strip politics from public education, but that critics call a thinly veiled attempt to whitewash American history, has already passed the Senate and could be voted on by the House as early as Friday. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

The measure targets critical race theory, an academic movement that has become a buzzword among Republicans who dispute the existence of white privilege and systemic racism. The bill would limit teachers from pushing its core tenets, such as connecting modern day inequities to historical patterns of discrimination.

Racism is “part of our reality, and that’s part of our shame, and we shouldn’t do anything to cover that up,” said Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican and the bill’s author in the House. “But what we should also not do is blame that on tender little children that have done nothing wrong.”

The backlash stems in part from the 1619 Project by The New York Times that asserted slavery and its remnants were more integral to the country’s founding than is commonly acknowledged. The essay collection, commemorating the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to colonial Virginia, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and has been adapted into children’s literature and lesson plans for educators.

School districts in some states are adapting parts of the project into their curriculum, and the Biden administration announced last month that it wants to prioritize education grants to programs that “take into account systemic marginalization, biases, inequities and discriminatory policy and practice in American history.”

The Texas legislation, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Brandon Creighton of Conroe, would bar schools from requiring teachers to talk about current events, and prohibit teachers from discussing certain viewpoints, including that some people are “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

Stephanie Boyce, who teaches Black history at the University of Houston and is affiliated with the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators, said teachers are already trained to present diverse viewpoints when discussing subjects. She said supporters are simply trying to block students from learning uncomfortable truths about the country or engaging more actively in the political process.

“It’s not even like they’re trying to make it complicated to see what’s happening,” Boyce said, adding about the restrictions on civic action: “We should be trying to find ways to make these processes more inclusive, to bring students into the process even more.”

She called it “ironic” that “you have people like me, an African American woman whose ancestors built this country, and the Capitol, and all the things that we did for free — that we should have to come before a body of legislators, the majority of which are white and male, and be told what we can and cannot say about race, sex and power dynamics.”

No more class credit for activism

If enacted, the bill would also bar educators from giving students credits for engaging in “political activism,” which includes lobbying legislators, city council members, attending marches and other forms of civic action.

Teachers should not have to “push a particular political agenda,” Creighton told colleagues last month, “but certainly to promote America and our republic for what it is, which is the greatest country in the history of the world, and certainly the most philanthropic.”

Another bill passed by the House on Wednesday would establish a Republican-appointed advisory panel to “promote patriotic education and increase awareness of the Texas values that continue to stimulate boundless prosperity across this state.”

Angela Valenzuela, an education policy professor at the University of Texas at Austin who testified against efforts in Arizona to ban ethnic studies from their classrooms, said Toth and Creighton’s proposal potentially violates free speech and other constitutional rights.

“This is part of a larger agenda to disenfranchise our communities, because we know that people who are critical and involved, that they vote,” she said.

Black, Hispanic and other children of color make up the large majority of students enrolled in Texas schools, according to state education figures.

“The idea that there is going to be a law that potentially bars teachers from discussing certain topics, I find, quite frankly, very offensive,” said Albert Broussard, a Black history professor at Texas A&M University who himself has been critical of parts of the 1619 Project. “It puts students at a tremendous disadvantage, because they’re simply going to fall behind.”

Several Texas-based teachers’ groups and left-leaning advocacy organizations have also come out against the measure, saying it would both hinder classroom discussion and take away student opportunities to participate in the democratic process — something valuable not only for young adults, but also for legislators debating bills that would affect them.

“The policymakers really do benefit from getting the youth perspective, and for the youth themselves, it has been an electric experience for them, having these policymakers acknowledge … the reality (of) what’s happening at schools and how it’s affecting them,” said Vanessa Beltran, a mental health policy fellow at the nonprofit Girls Empowerment Network.

Rep. James Talarico, a Democrat from Round Rock and a former public school teacher, said Toth and Creighton’s legislation conflicts with the state’s existing curriculum standards, which require educators to discuss current events.

“Students desperately need to be able to understand current events, determine fact from fiction and develop media literacy,” he said. “If public education is here as a safeguard for democracy, analyzing and understanding current events is critical to that goal.”


Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Texas educators alarmed by bills targeting class discussions on racism and sexism by María Méndez

I wish I were writing you a blog right now about what we endearingly term, "el Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May." That said, I do recommend reading this piece by Dr. Emilio Zamora titled, "Cinco de Mayo and The Battle of Puebla Have Relevance Today by Emilio Zamora." Here's another one, too, that I highly recommend. "Celebrate true tradition of Cinco de Mayo by Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez." There is so much amazing history to learn.

Here's where a blog really helps retrieve things, by the way. I recommend being a blogger. If for no one else but yourself. :-) 

But no, we find ourselves expressing alarm at HB 3979—that you can actually read in full in this blog if you scroll down.

Someone in a community meeting yesterday evening used the phrase, that this bill represents an "avoidance curriculum" that deforms what should be a Social Studies curriculum that engages all manner of topics, including difficult ones by competent professionals, so that our youth can be not just civically engaged, but better people in the world. 

How better than to have empathy and caring for others? Why all this divisiveness? And why do so in the context of a pandemic if not to seek to inflict harm? Why so mean-spirited, lacking in virtue?!

You are my other me. I am you. You are me. We are one. 

Ultimately, this is what Critical Race Theory and Ethnic Studies, at their best, teach. We teach this at our Saturday school, Academia Cuauhtli ("Cuauhtli" is Nahuatl for Eagle; hence "Eagle Academy"). 

This represents a way of knowing and being in the world that is native to this continent. Our ancestors were so wise: Were it not for these grounding ideologies that are about love, caring, community and social justice, as opposed to hate, war, and fear of the so-called "other," we would not have even survived conquest or colonization to be here right now fighting this bill. Social studies teacher and Austin parent Candace Hunter nails it when she expresses:

"We're not supposed to be telling kids what to think. We're supposed to be helping them learn how to think, and we are already doing that," she said. "We don't need a bill for that."

Since difficult topics in life are unavoidable, the burden should actually be on Texas State Representative Steve Toth and his bill sponsors to demonstrate how Texas students are well served by avoiding any kind of knowledge that might actually guide them to the Golden Rule. 

And how ironic, as this very knowledge holds the promise of greater awareness and real understanding, hence greater peace, harmony, and social justice in the world.

We can do this, my friends. 

But first, HB 3979 has gotta' go. Keep up with the phone calls to whoever represents you.

-Angela Valenzuela

Texas educators alarmed by bills targeting class discussions on racism and sexism

María Méndez
Austin American-Statesman

May 5 , 2021

Education advocates worry bills targeting discussions of racism and sexism in Texas public schools will hinder teachers' ability to discuss current events, history and ethnic studies with students. 

The Republican authors of the bills moving forward in the Legislature say their goal is to prevent the federal government and educators from pushing a political agenda in schools.

The Texas Senate last week passed Senate Bill 2202, which, among other things, would ban mandates for teachers to receive training or conduct class discussions on racism and sexism. Such discussions can be grounded on the ideas of critical race theory, a framework of thought focused on examining and challenging racism.

Companion legislation, House Bill 3979, could be taken up by the House as soon as Friday, according to its author, Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands.

“We send our kids to school to learn and to learn how to think critically, but we don't send them there to be indoctrinated,” Toth told the American-Statesman.

The bills don’t mention critical race theory, but they broadly target its tenets of acknowledging white supremacy and systemic racism and sexism. They also seek to ban private funding for the development or purchase of curriculum rooted in those principles. 

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, said the legislation “stops critical race theory and 1619 myths in Texas schools.”

The 1619 Project is an initiative from The New York Times examining the role of slavery in the founding of the United States and slavery's legacy. It was cited as inspiration in a proposal from the Biden administration for a grant program “to support the development of culturally responsive teaching and learning.” 

The effort soon became politicized, however. Former President Donald Trump created the 1776 Commission to counter discussions of the project in schools. President Joe Biden dismantled that commission on his first day in office.

State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said on Twitter that the bill “prevents the Biden Administration from advancing mandates on requiring critical race theory curriculum.” But the proposed federal grant program is application-based, and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he does not intend to mandate teachings of the 1619 Project.

"I don't think it's our role as a federal government to be dictating what's going to be taught in the curriculum, but it is our goal to make sure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum," Cardona told reporters at a virtual conference Monday.

Stephanie Boyce, a professor and entrepreneur who teaches African American studies at the University of Houston, said she sees bills against critical race theory and the 1619 Project in Texas and other states as a reaction to efforts to make education more inclusive of the experiences of people of color and women.

“What critical race theory says is that we have to think critically about race and the role that it plays, has played historically, still plays now in our institutions and our systems, and how these systems continue to reproduce injustice,” she said.

Targeting current events

Critics also point to other provisions in the legislation, such as that teachers “may not be compelled to discuss current events” or controversial issues.

“It really does take away from what we try to do with public education, and that is tie knowledge to current events so that it's relevant, so that students can relate to a lot of that material,” said State Board of Education Member Aicha Davis, a Democrat representing the Dallas area.

If approved, the legislation would affect the board’s review of social studies curriculum standards expected to begin this fall, Davis said.

Kim Denning-Knapp, a former social studies teacher and member of the Austin group Educators in Solidarity, said she worried about the potential impact on the state’s elective ethnic studies courses.

“How can you teach those courses without talking about how Mexican Americans and African Americans have been subjected to racism in our past?” she said. “There is no way to have those courses without delving into some hard topics.”

She also was troubled by another section of the legislation that said schools cannot require or reward students with credit, including extra credit, for work in “political activism.” 

“Teachers are just not going to want to engage at all whatsoever in activities like that because they don't want to have to deal with the hassle,” she said. “If somebody calls them out for being controversial and for violating the law, then activities like that are done.”

Defense of bill

Toth said the bills will not prevent civic engagement such as school field trips to the Capitol, and an updated version of the bill specifies the political activism provision pertains to work with lobbying or advocacy groups.

The legislation would not ban discussions of critical race theory, ethnic studies or current events, such as the killing of George Floyd, Toth said. 

“There are two different ways that you can discuss that. You can say, ‘George Floyd was murdered, and what that police officer did was cruel and inhumane.' ... The other way you can discuss is to say, ‘All cops are racist. All cops want to kill Black people,’” he said, explaining that the bill was aimed at preventing the second.In a statement, Creighton said the legislation will "will hold the line in Texas to ensure civics courses teach traditional history, focusing on the ideas that make our country great and the story of how our country has risen to meet those ideals." 

But Candace Hunter, a social studies teacher and parent in Austin, said the focus on fair and balanced discussions might seem innocuous, but she worries it will open the door to challenges to lessons and district efforts to acknowledge problems in history and society.

"We're not supposed to be telling kids what to think. We're supposed to be helping them learn how to think, and we are already doing that," she said. "We don't need a bill for that."


By:  Toth H.B. No. 3979



relating to civics instruction public school students and instruction policies in public schools.


SECTION 1.  Section 28.002, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsections (h-1), (h-2), and (h-3) to read as follows:

(h-1)  In adopting the essential knowledge and skills for the social studies curriculum, the State Board of Education shall adopt essential knowledge and skills that develop each student's civic knowledge, including an understanding of:

(1)  the fundamental moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government, as well as the history, qualities, traditions, and features of civic engagement in the United States;

(2)  the structure, function, and processes of government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels; and

(3)  the founding documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers (including but not limited to Essays 10 and 51), excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

(h-2)  In the instruction of the essential knowledge and skills for the social studies curriculum, in applicable courses of Texas, United States, and world history, government, civics, social studies, or similar subject areas:

(1)  no teacher shall be compelled by a policy of any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs;

(2)  teachers who choose to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs shall, to the best of their ability, strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective;

(3)  no school district or teacher shall require, make part of a course, or award course grading or credit including extra credit for, student work for, affiliation with, or service learning in association with any organization engaged in lobbying for legislation at the local, state or federal level, or in social or public policy advocacy; and

(4)  no school district or teacher shall require, make part of a course, or award course grading or credit including extra credit for, political activism, lobbying, or efforts to persuade members of the legislative or executive branch to take specific actions by direct communication at the local, state or federal level, or any practicum or like activity involving social or public policy advocacy.

(5)  No teacher, administrator, or other employee in any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration shall be required to engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of race or sex.

(6)  No teacher, administrator, or other employee in any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration shall shall require, or make part of a course the following concepts: (1) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (2) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (3) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (4) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (5) an individual's moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (6) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (7) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (8) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.

(h-3)  No private funding shall be accepted by state agencies, school district, campuses, open-enrollment charter schools, or school administrations for the purposes of curriculum development, purchase or choice of curricular materials, teacher training, or professional development pertaining to courses on Texas, United States, and world history, government, civics, social studies, or similar subject areas.

SECTION 2  This Act applies beginning with the 2021-2022 school year.

SECTION 3.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2021.