AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Education Agency is finally weighing in on a new law that took effect on Thursday. However, the agency is not offering the clear guidance school districts have been waiting for when it comes to the controversial Senate Bill 3.
SB 3 updates House Bill 3979, the two laws that don't mention critical race theory but stem from a national debate over how race and racism are taught in schools.
Educators say critical race theory is not taught in schools.
According to Dr. Chloe Latham Sikes, the deputy director of policy for the Intercultural Development Research Association, SB 3 is more restrictive and broader than HB 3979.
"It does authorize the Texas Education Agency to create enforcement, power and enforcement rules to enforce how social studies is taught in schools. We don't have those rules yet, but it did include that enforcement power. And it did broaden this list of prohibited concepts of talking about race and racism and sex and sexism from just pertaining to social study to all subjects K through 12," Dr. Sikes said.
She said before the Thanksgiving holiday, on Nov. 18, the TEA posted an SB 3 update on its website. It's a comparison of SB 3 and HB 3979. On the first page, the TEA highlighted two bullet points.
"So the first bullet is referring to the removal of a long list of events and people and different types of texts and literature that is important for understanding racial history in America. These were a long list that was included as an amendment in House Bill 3979 to then be ultimately included in social studies, TEKS or the learning standards. Senate Bill 3 removed that list," she said.
But Sikes said SB 3 states that the removal of that list doesn't mean those items shouldn't be taught. She said the second bullet point states that private citizens can't sue teachers for what they're teaching but educators can be fired if they violate district policies.
"This also was addressing some of the real tensions and real consequences of the chilling effect from House Bill 3979, we saw a lot of teachers getting concerned," Sikes said.
But Sikes said school districts are still waiting for guidance from the TEA on a number of issues SB 3 created.
"It does not address how this should impact teaching and learning in the spring semester. It doesn't address the book inquiries or scouring libraries that we know has been happening across Texas since the passage of these bills," she said.
As the wait continues, Sikes said stories from educators about surveillance over what they're teaching are growing. That has Sikes and the IDRA concerned.
We have reached out to Sen. Bryan Hughes, the author of SB 3, for comment. As soon as we receive it, we will post it.
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