Texas panel gives initial thumbs down to Mexican-American textbook


Just one member of the State Board of Education voted in favor of the Mexican-American studies textbook.

It’s the second time in two years the board has tentatively turned down a Mexican-American studies textbook.

Board members were concerned with errors in the book and didn’t consider it a stand-alone textbook.

The board will take a final vote on Friday.

The State Board of Education on Wednesday tentatively rejected another Mexican-American studies textbook for Texas high school students over concerns that it isn’t comprehensive and contains errors.

If the board rejects the book in a final vote Friday, it will be the second time in as many years the board has turned down a Mexican-American studies textbook. Last year, the board dumped a textbook after scholars, activists and politicians denounced it as racist. The more recent one, “The Mexican American Toolkit,” has not received the same level of public criticism, but a state review panel of five high school teachers and college professors over the summer did not recommend adopting an earlier, uncorrected version of the textbook.

READ: Does a new Texas textbook whitewash Mexican-American history?

“I think it’s a disservice to the Mexican-American community because it is limited in its scope. It could be used as a supplemental. It’s not a textbook,” said board member and former social studies teacher Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth.

Ruben Cortez Jr., D-Brownsville, was the only board member to vote in favor of the textbook.

Review panel members over the summer found more than 50 errors and editorial problems, including typos, grammatical errors and vagueness in certain assertions author Tony Diaz made in the book.

Diaz said he worked closely with panelists to make many changes, including adding more material to the book. He said the board keeps changing the definition of what a textbook should be.

“The book met the letter of the law, the spirit of the law,” said Diaz, a Houston-area activist and Mexican-American studies professor at Lone Star College. “I think there’s been no more vetted book … and they moved the goal post again.”

Even if the board doesn’t adopt Diaz’s textbook, school districts can go directly to his publisher, Kendall Hunt Publishing, to buy the textbook. It’s not clear if the board will open another call for more textbooks.

Board member Georgina Pérez, D-El Paso, said the board should have first approved a Mexican-American course with learning standards before calling for a textbook. Without a course with standards, authors are left in the dark about what they should be writing, she said.

“Our students deserve far better than piecemealing together,” Pérez said. The three other Democrats on the board echoed similar sentiments.

The board in 2014 rejected immediately implementing a Mexican-American studies course, opting instead to encourage school districts to adopt a Mexican-American studies course as an “innovative course” which Houston has done, said board Chair Donna Bahorich, R-Houston. She said the board also added Mexican-American studies to a wish list of courses that board members want developed in the near future and called for textbooks in ethnic studies, including Mexican-American studies.

On Wednesday, several board members including Hardy and Bahorich indicated they still want Mexican-American studies to be established as a high school social studies elective course. Such a course could go into effect in fall 2020, according to the Texas Education Agency.

“We’re seeing a demand,” said board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, adding he would like to see a Hispanic-American course, not just Mexican-American.

Pérez said she doesn’t want Mexican-American studies to be treated as an elective course.

“Mexican-Americans are a staple in American history. We should be in the mainstream history classroom,” she said.

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