Texas Board Of Ed Unlikely To Approve Mexican-American Studies Before Fall

Jan 31, 2018

Despite a call for immediate action from at least two board members during January’s board meeting, the Texas State Board of Education stuck to its agenda and made no decisions in a yearslong push to expand access to Mexican-American studies courses in Texas high schools.

The 15-member elected board heard hours of testimony in favor of creating a standard curriculum for the course Tuesday, mostly from educators and students.

Social studies teacher and South Texas College instructor Juan Carmona was one of many that talked about the transformative power of learning about the role Mexican Americans have played in U.S. history.

“Omission is a very powerful thing. The omission of one’s own history and culture creates the sense that it does not matter, that it’s not that important and therefore you’re not that important,” Carmona said.

About 52 percent of students in the state’s public schools are Hispanic, and Carmona and others said traditional history courses often don’t highlight the contributions of Latinos.

Board members Marisa Perez-Diaz and Ruben Cortez wanted to give Carmona and other experts the board’s blessing to start creating the course immediately, even though the board was only scheduled to discuss the matter, not make a decision.

“I can’t understand why we just don’t say yes. I’m frustrated. It’s been three long years. We’re going on four if we don’t take action,” Perez-Diaz said. “You all have told us no, and so we’re right back where we are. How do we have a guarantee then that we’re not going to get another no from the majority on this board?”

The state board voted against two proposed Mexican American Studies textbooks, one in 2016 that many described as racist, and another in November that the board felt had too many inaccuracies.

But board chair Donna Bahorich said the Texas Education Agency doesn’t have the money or staff to work with the experts until September, at the earliest.

“(The working group) has to work with staff. And that’s what the issue is right now. We don’t have a process that doesn’t involve staff. We just don’t,” Bahorich said.

The experts had offered to meet before the fall without being reimbursed for travel.

About a third of the board members spoke during the discussion, most indicating their support for basing the Mexican American Studies course on an elective course used by the Houston Independent School District.

At the request of vice-chair Marty Rowley, Bahorich agreed to put the matter to a vote during April’s board meeting, with the understanding that the state agency doesn’t have the bandwidth to work on it until fall.

One of the issues Rowley wants clarified is whether the course should be on Mexican-American studies or Latino studies.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille