AUSTIN (Nexstar) — How much power should individual parents have over what their kids learn in the classroom? That’s just a piece of what state lawmakers grappled with Tuesday.
The debate comes amid concerns about book bans and student curriculum. The Texas Freedom Network organized a protest at the Texas State Capitol, while the Public Education Committee got insight on how state oversight could change public schools.
The committee talked about state policies, the instructional material used in classroom and giving parents more of a say in their kids’ education.
“The authority of parents to determine what they’re being taught is actually not an individual parent authority,” Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas State Board of Education, said. “It is what the school board and the school district decide.”
Walking into the heart of the Capitol building on Tuesday morning, there were signs reading: “teach the truth” and “I read because I want to learn.”
Parents, teachers and students were among those protesting their right to access diverse books in school.
“I believe they have no absolute authority to rule over all children in the classroom,” former history teacher Yulissa Chavez said.
Some are worried changes will be proposed that limit students.
“Education censorship has been a hot topic in our state,” Emerald Belmarez with Texas Freedom Network said. “And I think it’s important that these people see that these issues are affecting real community members, real people.
Chavez, advocating for her former students, just wants them to feel accepted at school and beyond.
“They plan on discouraging our students from being who they are,” Chavez said.
Some Texas parents have expressed concerns about certain books that deal with racism, sex, gender and sexuality. According to Ellis, there isn’t a lot of oversight when it comes to these issues.
“If you could, you would solve small problems and big problems at the same time,” Ellis said. “It’s [a] very uncommon practice… for employees at [the] school district to read the instructional materials that they buy for the library before they put the book on shelves.”
Still, those advocating against more restrictions worry how much things could change.
“Even if it’s uncomfortable to learn… it’s still really important to learn,” Austin ISD student Shayna Levys said.
The committee anticipates that ideas discussed Tuesday are expected to be presented at the next legislative session.