A four-year fight over education came to a head this week at the state capitol where the Texas Board of Education approved a new course on Mexican-American studies designed for high school students.
The Texas Board of Education has approved creating statewide academic standards for a Mexican-American studies high school course, but Republicans insisted on calling it "ethnic studies" over the tearful objections of a Democratic member.
Friday's vote creates an elective called "Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent" in a state that was once part of Mexico and where the majority of public school students are Hispanic.
The Republican-controlled board listened Wednesday to hours of often emotional testimony from students, teachers, parents, academic experts and activists who urged a consistent framework for school districts already offering Mexican-American studies courses.
Orlando Lara, who teaches at TCU, testified. He taught Mexican-American studies in the past at a community college.
“I have seen the impact that it has on students, and how cheated they feel by not having access to Mexican-American studies in high school and middle school,” said Lara.
“Our country is made up of so many diverse individuals, and part of being inclusive is being able to respect and acknowledge our differences,” said Board member Erika Beltran.
The curriculum will be patterned after a similar course in the Houston Independent School District. If the course is approved, each district will decide whether to offer the elective course to students.
“It's important for students to learn that the story of Texas and our nation includes the experiences and contributions of Mexican Americans and other people from diverse backgrounds,” said Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller.
The board's 10 Republicans and five Democrats previously refused to create a Mexican-American Studies course. Some school districts devised their own.