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Texas Democrats and teachers blast plans to postpone changes to social studies standards

 Carisa Lopez, with Texas Freedom Network, speaks alongside teachers' groups, advocates and Democratic members of the Texas State Board of Education at a press conference at the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday.
Becky Fogel
/
KUT
Carisa Lopez, with Texas Freedom Network, speaks alongside teachers' groups, advocates and Democratic members of the Texas State Board of Education at a press conference at the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday.

Teachers’ groups, parents and Democratic members of the Texas State Board of Education are speaking out about Republican-led efforts to delay revisions to social studies standards.

The GOP-controlled board was scheduled to approve new guidelines in November. It would have marked the first time in over a decade that the board approved a new social studies curriculum.

But, when the board met Tuesday, it encountered an outpouring of opposition from conservative groups and activists. Republican board members then took a step toward pushing the revisions back until 2025, saying more time is needed to research changes and get feedback.

The Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning organization, was among the groups that held a news conference Wednesday at the Texas Education Agency. Senior Political Director Carisa Lopez said misinformation derailed the process to approve social studies standards that are both accurate and more inclusive of the diverse communities who shape Texas and the U.S.

“It was appalling to see a toxic assortment of extremist groups, culture warriors, conspiracy theorists and even lawmakers portray teachers and scholars who worked on proposed new drafts for the standards as anti-American and anti-Christian,” she said.

The heads of the Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas American Federation of Teachers also blasted the board’s effort to postpone an overhaul of the curriculum. Ovidia Molina, the president of TSTA, said as an educator her goal is for students to love learning.

“Learning about identity is not indoctrination. Teaching empathy is not activism." Zeph Capo, the president of Texas AFT

“They can’t do that if they don’t see themselves in what they’re learning about,” she said. “As an educator all we want to do is make sure our students feel safe, feel seen, and want to be a part of our classrooms.”

Molina added that while the State Board of Education did hear from parents who do not support updates to the social studies curriculum, families who are in favor of change were not represented.

“We know that not every parent can come up here and testify,” she said. “So we did not hear from the majority of the parents in Texas that want to ensure that our students get an honest education.”

Zeph Capo, the president of Texas AFT, also criticized efforts to restrict what students learn.

Conservative groups and parents testified Tuesday that students should not learn about movements for LGBTQ+ rights and critical race theory — an academic concept that is not taught in K-12 public schools.

“Learning about identity is not indoctrination. Teaching empathy is not activism,” Capo said.

When he was growing up, Capo said, he felt deeply isolated at school. He said Wednesday he doesn't want kids today to be alienated because the curriculum is not reflective of their identities and experiences.

“Why would we continue to do that to any kid?” he asked.

Democratic school board member Marisa B. Pérez-Díaz said she and fellow board members were flooded with misinformation and form letters expressing opposition to the proposed social studies standards.

“Where I stand, I still want to see us move forward with approval of these standards at the end of this year. But I also stand in front of you recognizing that I don’t have the votes to get that done,” she said.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to take a final vote Friday on whether to delay the social studies overhaul for another three years.

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Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Becky Fogel is the newscast host and producer for “Texas Standard.” She came to the show from Science Friday in New York where she produced segments on zombie microbiomes and sneaker technology. She got her start in radio at KWBU-FM in Waco and she’s happy to be back in the great state of Texas.