Texas Education Board Violates Civil Rights

schoolhouseHow much authority should state education departments and independent boards of education have in deciding the lessons students will learn? That’s the question two civil rights organizations in Texas are asking as they seek a federal review of the public education system in that state. The request for the review comes as the organizations accuse the Texas Board of Education of violating civil rights laws by revising state-wide curriculum standards.

The Texas NAACP and the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens made the request to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) on Monday. They contend that the curriculum changes passed in May by the Texas Board of Education "were made with the intention to discriminate" and will have a "stigmatizing impact" on Latino and African-American students. The organizations are asking the DOE to stop the implementation of the curriculum changes, which include revision of standardized tests.

According to documents sent to the DOE: "The State of Texas is failing to provide many of its minority students with equal educational opportunities." The curriculum complaint, then, is coupled with what the two organizations call a “miseducation” of minority students – they cite statistics which show an underrepresentation of minority students in gifted and talented programs, and unequal discipline practices for minorities.

Texas officials had little to say. A spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency said the complaint was being reviewed but had no further comment; and Gail Lowe, chair of the education board, said she was aware of the filing but didn’t “know the specific nature of any allegations or problems they allege."

Texas officials have gone on record elsewhere to say they made these curriculum changes to amend inaccuracies from a previous Board’s decision ten years prior. Among other things, the new curriculum shows “positive” aspects of slavery.

These ideological decisions by Texas will ultimately contribute to what the nearly 5 million Texas students will learn about over the next ten years. The organizations making the request to the DOE argue that these decisions may have influence even beyond Texas. As one of the nation’s largest states, and largest textbook buyers, the state directly and indirectly influences publishers whose textbooks are sold elsewhere.

We’ll keep you posted on the DOE’s decision.

Photo Credit: Josie Hill