Pat Hardy, a Republican representing part of Fort Worth on the State Board of Education, is calling for Gov. Greg Abbott to veto a bill banning critical race theory in schools and have lawmakers redo it when he calls for a special session of the Legislature.
In an interview with the Fort Worth Report, Hardy denounced the version of House Bill 3979 the Legislature approved as a weak piece of legislation that she says does not properly ban teaching critical race theory, an academic concept that looks at how racism has shaped government and society in the United States.
“If you look at this bill, it is the most idiotic, poorly constructed thing you’ve ever seen,” Hardy said, adding the authors got into the policy weeds, an area the State Board of Education is better suited for than the Legislature. “My goal now is to try to convince (the governor) … to veto 3979 and then put it on the agenda for the special session.”
Abbott plans to call for two special sessions: one in the fall on redistricting and COVID-19 relief funds and the other on other Republican-priority legislation that didn’t pass in the regular session that ended Monday.
The governor’s office did not respond Friday to a Report request to comment.
Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner opposed HB 3979 and efforts to ban critical race theory in classrooms. In a Texas Urban Council of Superintendents letter to lawmakers, Scribner and his Dallas ISD counterpart, Michael Hinojosa, called the bill a solution in search of a problem that would chill freedom of speech for students and teachers and suppress classroom conversations about current events and issues.
“To prohibit discussions about controversial subjects, current events, and especially racial issues, would be to replace an honest and well-rounded historical education with historical revisionism,” the superintendents wrote. “Incorporating an accurate and full view of our history is not ‘woke,’ it is warranted to adequately prepare our students for the issues facing us today.”
The debate over critical race theory took center stage at the Fort Worth ISD school board meeting late last month. Speakers supported the Legislature’s then-proposed ban and decried what they thought was the school district requiring critical race theory to be taught in classes.
Scribner has pushed back against that allegation, saying the district does not teach the controversial topic in classes. However, Fort Worth ISD administrators say they consider the academic philosophy in allocating resources to Black, Latino and other minority students.
Hardy, a former social studies teacher, worked with senators to fine tune HB 3979 when it reached the Senate. That effort was for naught after the Senate version was sent back to the House, where Democrats appeared to block the bill. Republican senators revived the bill, stripped it of its changes and OK’d the initial House-approved version. HB 3979 is waiting for Abbott’s signature.
If the governor follows Hardy’s advice — an outcome even the former educator sees as unlikely — the State Board of Education member wants the Legislature to start with the Senate’s version of HB 3979 and get it through both chambers.
Some lawmakers have told Hardy they would rather stick with the already approved bill and correct it during a special session. The former teacher thought that was unacceptable and compared it to when her students would not complete their assignments in the correct way.
“If they don’t do it right the first time, you don’t keep saying, ‘Oh, well, we’ll just change it up later.’ No, you need to work on it and clean the whole thing up, so that we have a good bill,” Hardy said.
One issue Hardy has with the bill on Abbott’s desk is that it’s not a proper ban of critical race theory, she said. The House version bans critical race theory only from being taught in social studies courses, while the Senate version has a blanket prohibition covering all subjects.
“Why have a bill that doesn’t really stop critical race theory? It just limited it to a few places,” Hardy said.
The Senate version also includes provisions for teachers and administrators to go through a Texas Education Agency-developed civics training program. HB 3979 does not. That was another sticking point for Hardy, who considers civics a top priority for students.
Scribner, in his letter with the Dallas ISD superintendent, criticized the Republican effort to ban critical race theory as hindering the quality of the state’s current curriculum. Sensitive issues like this are best left to local officials chosen by voters, Scribner said.
“For years, districts have advocated for a robust civics education curriculum. But this plan will make our students less informed, less involved in public life and less ready to lead Texas into the future,” Scribner and Hinojosa wrote.