Abbott says he will add the issue to a special session
As if HB 3979 wasn’t bad enough already, Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that he will add the bill’s topic—bans on controversial subjects, particularly those around racism, from being taught in the classroom—to an impending special session. That signal came as the governor nevertheless signed the bill and released a statement that said: “House Bill 3979 is a strong move to abolish critical race theory in Texas, but more must be done. The issue will be added to a special session agenda.”
HB 3979 had a long, strange trip through the Legislature this spring. In its original form it was presented as a civics bill that required the teaching of several writings foundational to the birth of the United States. But other language in the bill addressing controversial topics over race made it immediately clear that the legislation was intended to be a ban on teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project—which a wave of Republican-controlled legislatures across the country have been trying to ban in the past couple of months. While the Critical Race theory mainly explores the intersection of the law and race, and the 1619 Project essays highlight little-known issues around slavery, they nonetheless have become a target for conservative activists around the country.
Now Gov. Abbott has joined the fray and likely intends to try and pass legislation that is more implicit in banning CRT and the 1619 Project, while also cutting out a series of additions for required curriculum that Democrats added to the bill with amendments—such as writings on civil rights, slavery, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and the labor movement. (The Senate, facing a tight deadline at the end of the session, was forced to pass the House’s version of the bill.)
With a law that already stifles freedom of speech and any well-nuanced instruction on the role of racism and slavery in our country’s founding, it’s concerning that the governor wants to push the agenda of white-washing our history even further. Texas AFT values the professionalism of our teachers to be free to present accurate and balanced information when teaching controversial subjects. We will be ready to fight this legislation when it surfaces in a special session, the date for which has not been announced yet.