The bill had already cleared the Texas House and Senate, but at last word, any added amendments were still being scrutinized.
If HB 3979 is enacted as predicted, it would limit how ethnic studies, civics and social studies are taught in Texas classrooms.
“I have no kind words for the language in this bill,” said Marisa Perez-Diaz of San Antonio, who serves on the State Board of Education.
The SBOE member said she’s heard from students who want to know and learn about the experiences of other races.
“This is our youth who want these things. Our youth want to understand. It’s the adults that stand in the way of that,” Perez-Diaz said.
Besides that, she said, the term “critical race theory” isn’t in the legislation itself.
Perez-Diaz said the academic concept is taught on the graduate level, not in high school or middle school.
“It is a framework for understanding how our institutions have disproportionately impacted in a negative way our communities of color,” she said.
But Jonathan Butcher, a Will Skillman Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, says, “Critical race theory has a number of tenets or beliefs that go along with it that have to do with resistance, with activism, with lobbying the Legislature for progressive causes.”
Butcher said he agrees slavery, Jim Crow laws and other dark periods of American history cannot be ignored.
“Critical race theory is not giving a thorough perspective of the past. It is seeing everything through the lens of race,” Butcher says.
Perez-Diaz said downplaying race and its role in history and current events would leave students ill-prepared for an increasingly diverse world “if we don’t help them engage in thoughtful conversations and thoughtful discussions.”
Butcher said he disagrees.
“We should not be saying to students that they need to affirm that America is systemically racist or that discrimination exists everywhere,” he said.