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Several Republican State Board of Education candidates who ran against so-called critical race theory in public schools advanced in Tuesday’s GOP primary election.
The 15 State Board of Education seats are up for grabs in November, and there were more than 50 candidates vying for nominations from their parties. There were 31 Republicans and 25 Democrats on the ballot. Currently, the council is made up of nine Republicans and six Democrats.
Usually, voters pay little attention to races for the body that sets the state’s public school curriculum. But this year, the operation of Texas schools has been a particularly hot topic. The impacts of the pandemic on school closures and mask mandates – as well as a new law restricting how students must learn about the history of racism in the United States – have made the races for the councils of much more visible condition.
Because the state board is responsible for curriculum standards, the critical race dilemma may open the door to more censorship in schools, even though Texas already has its so-called Critical Race Theory Act. , said Chloe Latham Sikes, deputy policy director at cross-cultural development. Research association.
The law is vague, Sikes said, and leaves room for interpretation, so state board officials who try to oust such teaching from schools could potentially censor materials that include people of color. and the LGBTQ community.
This has happened before with statewide book bans, she said.
The general election will take place on November 8. Council members serve four-year terms and set curriculum policies and standards for more than 1,200 Texas school districts and nearly 5.5 million students.
Some conservative candidates have leaned into rhetoric criticizing what they call critical race theory, even though no school in Texas actually teaches college-level academic theory in the classroom.
But as elementary and secondary schools strive to diversify their curriculum and make history lessons more inclusive, conservatives have used the term critical race theory to describe a variety of discussions about race and have alleged that these conversations discriminate against white children.
The fact that critical race theory is not taught until college in Texas has not stopped political candidates from working to ban it or use their opposition as a campaign platform.
In Districts 2, 7, 11, 13, and 15, Republican candidates have made critical race theory central to their campaigns, with strong results.
In District 15, which spans the Panhandle, Republican challenger Aaron Kinsey ousted incumbent Jay Johnson. Kinsey was endorsed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and former Governor Rick Perry. Kinsey also received a donation from Conservative mega-donor Tim Dunn and major donations from the political action committee Charter Schools Now.
Kinsey said critical race theory is taught in different forms, and Texas needs teachers who can identify how it’s being rebranded.
In District 2, which covers part of the Gulf Coast, Republican LJ Francis won the open seat and based his campaign on banning critical race theory from schools, saying “woke liberals are pushing a critical race theory program.
He will face Victor Perez or Pete Garcia, who qualified for a second round of the Democratic primaries. Democrat Ruben Cortez Jr. currently holds the seat.
Republicans Julien Pricken and Michael Barton were the top voters for the open seat in District 7, which also covers part of the Gulf Coast. Both Barton and Pricken have made opposition to critical race theory a top priority. It was unclear Wednesday afternoon whether Pricken would win or face Barton in a second round. The eventual winner will face Democrat Daniel Hochman.
In District 11, which covers parts of Tarrant and Parker counties, incumbent Pat Hardy won the nomination. She was first elected in 2002. Going into the primaries, Hardy made it a priority to get critical race theory and the New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project out of the classrooms. class. Current law already prohibits the teaching of the 1619 Project.
Republican Kathryn Monette led the race for the District 12 seat but could not avoid a runoff. Monette has made opposition to critical race theory a campaign goal, unlike her second-round opponent, A. Denise Russell.
In District 14, which includes Denton County and reaches into Lampasas County, no Republican candidate appeared to incorporate critical race theory into their campaign, but incumbent Sue Melton-Malone lost to Evelyn Brooks.
Socorro Morales, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has expertise in critical race theory, said talking about race is not true. , inclusiveness or ethnic studies means that schools place the blame on white children.
Stephanie Knight, dean of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University, said candidates are using critical race theory this election season as a way to engage voters.
“Those who use critical race theory as a rallying cry don’t really think about the program per se,” she said. “They are thinking about an issue that they want to focus on.”
The lingering resentment over race and whether students should be required to wear masks to prevent coronavirus infection has led to louder calls for more school choice and therefore education. Campaign money followed, with more than $500,000 donated to Democratic and Republican candidates this year from Now PAC charter schools.
Of that amount, more than $200,000 went to Democratic candidate Omar Yanar, who ran to replace Georgina Pérez in District 1, which covers the El Paso area. Pérez, who has advocated for greater charter school accountability, is not running for re-election. Yanar lost; Democrats Melissa N. Ortega and Laura Marquez will head into the runoff election.
Ortega and Marquez have raised less than $10,000 combined.
Disclosure: The New York Times, University of Texas at San Antonio, and Southern Methodist University 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 full list here.