Good afternoon. My name is Maggie Stern and I am here to testify against SB 3 on behalf of myself and as the Youth Civic Education & Engagement Coordinator with the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas.
I want to begin by noting that this bill – nominally about teaching the civic process – is being heard today only through a suspension of the rules, less than 24 hours after the full bill text was made publicly available, and still with no option for virtual testimony for hardworking Texas students, teachers, and parents who cannot be at the Capitol.
I want to echo the testimony of those who have spoken against this divisive politicization and fearmongering in our classrooms. We strongly oppose the further whitewashing of Texas curriculum. To avoid repeating our previous testimony, I will focus today on the further narrowing of civic participation in the classroom from previous versions of this bill.
The material I have handed out highlights changes not mentioned in the layout between today’s SB 3 and versions previously passed by the Senate. Section 3(h-2)(2)(E) now narrows the requirement that the TEKS emphasize “the ability…to participate as a citizen in a constitutional democracy” to only explicitly include “by voting.” Voting is vital, but students who are unable to vote because of their age or citizenship status can of course still participate in civic activities such as service, contacting their representatives, and working with their neighbors on community issues. SB 3 already creates new barriers to practicing those basic civic skills, which we also oppose, and it is concerning that SB 3 now further narrows this definition of civic participation.
This latest version also cuts the charge for the TEKS to include: “the ability…to effectively engage with governmental institutions at the local, state, and federal levels.” Why further cut language meant to promote civic engagement while stripping students of access to civic opportunities – which, notably, are already not equitably available to Texas students today?
This is not civics. This is rote memorization of whitewashed revisionism with no connection to real life skills – an approach we are moving away from in other subjects because it has failed our students. Let’s give Texas students the opportunity to grow into lifelong civic participants in every facet of their civic lives. For this and the reasons stated by other witnesses, we urge you to oppose SB 3.