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As political races go, candidates for the Texas State Board of Education are often overlooked, making their races a perennial wallflower in Texas politics.
But this year, after a seismic conservative offset erupted in local school board races in the state’s suburbs, more attention is being focused on who will be elected to the board that will dictate what should be in teachers’ lesson plans in the 1,200 public school districts across the country. Texas. Parents in some of these districts have become a vocal force coming out of the pandemic, questioning everything from why and when schools should close, which books are appropriate in school libraries, to the depth of lessons. story.
“One thing that strikes me is that this mirrors what we see in local school board elections,” said Rebecca Deen, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
And thanks to redistricting – the U.S. post-census exercise in which the boundaries of State Board of Education districts, as well as legislative and congressional districts, are redrawn every ten years – all 15 Board of Education seats are up for grabs.
As nine incumbents — six Republicans and three Democrats — seek re-election, many keen observers of these oft-ignored races are watching to see if the board moves further to the right or if the incumbents will be able to win back their seats. A total of 33 candidates – 14 Republicans, 11 Democrats, two independents and three libertarians – are vying for those 15 seats.
Deen said that like local school board elections, state school board races have low turnout, so candidates try to focus on burning issues.
“The State Board of Education is not new to social movements,” Deen said. “What has come back is the intensity of the debate in this educational space.”
And if there’s anything to help challengers stand out, it’s a new Texas that went into effect last year that prohibits teachers from subjecting students to anything that makes them “feel bad about themselves.” comfortable, guilty, distressed or any other form of psychological distress” depending on their race or gender. The measure was designed to counter what the Conservatives call ‘critical race theory’ – a broad term used to describe what they consider to be indoctrination: a school’s attempts to offer a more comprehensive on American history.
In truth, critical race theory is a college-level discipline that examines why racism persists in American law and culture decades after the civil rights movement in the United States. It is not taught in elementary or secondary schools in Texas.
But that hasn’t stopped conservative candidates from keeping an “anti-CRT” plank in their state board of education campaign literature.
Two Republican incumbents on the state board have lost their primaries to candidates promising to remove critical race theory from the classroom. Jay Johnson lost his primary in District 15, Panhandle, and Sue Melton Malone lost his in District 14, covering parts of North Texas.
The case of a third Republican board member, matt robinson, also underlines this more conservative push. Robinson did not seek re-election in District 7, which covers part of the Gulf Coast, because he did not believe he could beat challenger Julie Pickren, who made so-called critical race theory a central part of his campaign. Robinson backed Democrat in the race, Dan Hochman. Pickren did not respond to a request for comment.
“I could tell I wasn’t going to be re-elected in the Republican primary,” Robinson said in September. “The State Board of Education has moved a little to the right over the last two or three years, and it’s just been reacting to the way the Republican Party of Texas is.”
Many Republicans running for board spots won their primaries in March touting as a top priority how they will prevent the teaching of “critical race theory.” The local school board Conservatives spent an unprecedented amount of money and won elections this spring because of their opposition to neighborhoods offering a higher inclusive program to students.
The issue of what conservatives call critical race theory has been in play throughout the ballot — and outside of Texas, including a GOP victory for the Governor of Virginiawho campaigned on a pledge to ban the teaching of critical race theory.
Hochman, the Democratic nominee in the District 7 race, said he fears the council will move further to the right if someone like Pickren is elected. Having 25 years of experience in education, he believes it is his duty to do something about it.
“I must block these attempts to ruin public education in this state,” he said.
The new council will have a big influence on potential social studies curriculum changes at more than 8,000 public schools across the state. Prior to the election, the State Board of Education decided to delay update statewide social studies curriculum standards through at least 2025.
The council’s decision came after conservative lawmakers and parents testified that the proposed updates were influenced by critical race theory and did not sufficiently include “American exceptionalism” or Christianity.
Council members love Republicans Will Hickman and pam little deny being pressured to delay revamping the social studies curriculum. Instead, they said they felt some of the content on offer was not age-appropriate and wanted to keep the current schedule of classes requiring Texas history in fourth and seventh grades. . Proposals before the board this summer would have eliminated the current schedule. Hickman is seeking re-election in District 6, covering parts of the Houston area, and Little is running in District 12, covering parts of North Texas.
The board updates statewide standards for all 5.5 million students at all levels in the state about once a decade.
For decades, conservative Christians have watched and lobbied against more diverse or comprehensive classroom instruction, both as advocates before the board and as elected members. More recently, between 2006 and 2010, a conservative Christian bloc on the state board, led by then-board member Don McLeroy, inserted its ideals into history standards, such as questioning evolution and include the biblical figure Moses in history lessons.
“We’ll likely see an even more conservative State Board of Education next year,” said Carisa Lopez, senior policy director for the Texas Freedom Network, which has fought for more inclusive school materials since the group’s founding in 1995.
But conservative organizations like Texas Values famous the backlog of essential Texas knowledge and skills, describing it as a vote to “reject critical race theory.”
“Now the State Board of Education has time to get it right and consider better TEKS that will continue to teach patriotic historical values and Judeo-Christian heritage in American and Texas history,” said Mary Elizabeth Castle, Senior Policy Advisor for Texas Values. , in a statement following the postponement vote.
Because the 15 races are tied to specific districts, Deen said for Republicans, it’s not about motivating people to vote, but about making sure the candidates appeal to voters.
In this case, being firmly opposed to critical race theory, however defined, is something conservatives appreciate, she said.
In District 15, Republican challenger Aaron Kinsey ousted GOP incumbent Johnson in the March primary. Kinsey was approved by the Lieutenant Governor. Dan Patrick and former Governor Rick Perry. Kinsey also received a donation from conservative megadonor Tim Dunn and major donations from the political action committee Charter Schools Now, the political arm of the Texas Public Charter Schools Association.
Kinsey said critical race theory is taught in different forms, and Texas needs teachers who can identify how it’s being rebranded. He presents himself unopposed.
In District 2, which covers part of the Gulf Coast, Republican LJ Francis won the Republican primary for the open seat and based his campaign on banning critical race theory from schools, saying that the “woke liberals” are pushing a critical race theory agenda. He faces Democrat Victor Perez.
In District 11, which covers parts of Tarrant and Parker counties, the incumbent Republican Patrick Hardy won the nomination. She was first elected in 2002. Entering the primaries, Hardy made it a priority to eliminate critical race theory and New York’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” from classrooms. York Times. Texas law already prohibits teaching about the “1619 Project.”
Disclosure: Texas Freedom Network, Texas Public Charter Schools Association, New York Times, and University of Texas – Arlington financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors . Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a suit list here.