Proposed bill could ban critical race theory from Texas universities

Sarah Brager, News Reporter

Texas lawmakers made another step to keep critical race theory out of public education by proposing a new bill that would ban the curriculum from publicly funded universities in Texas, including UT Austin.  

Rep. Cody Harris filed House Bill 1607 on Jan. 25 shortly into the new legislative session. According to the bill, any public institution of higher education that teaches banned concepts, such as topics associated with critical race theory, will lose state funding. About 23% of UT’s current budget comes from state support, according to a breakdown on the University’s budget office website. 

Harris declined to comment on the bill at this time. 

Critical race theory is a framework for examining how systemic racism is embedded in American institutions and laws. Antonio L. Ingram II, a lawyer from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said the bill targets much more than CRT framework. If H.B. 1607 is signed into law, faculty at UT and other public universities across Texas will be severely limited in all discussions of racial history, inequity and policy starting in the next academic year. 

“These histories have been suppressed for so long and they’re finally able to be taught, and now there’s sort of a reversal,” Ingram said. “It isn’t stemming from parents, professors or students — it’s from politicians who are trying to create their own form of censorship on these campuses.” 

Government senior Kevin Roberts said he is disheartened but not surprised by lawmakers’ efforts after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a similar bill last summer that implemented curriculum restrictions in public K-12 schools. Roberts, who is currently a Texas legislative aide and speaker of assembly for Student Government, said he expects significant pushback during the review process because the bill is so controversial. 

“The state has bigger issues that it should be focusing on like the power grid, policing reform, abortion rights, not school curriculum,” Roberts said. “Lawmakers aren’t teachers, and I don’t think they would understand the complexities of (the curriculum).” 

Lawmakers like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who support similar initiatives say the bill will keep bias out of the classroom. However, Karma Chávez, a member of the Texas branch of the American Association of University Professors, said the bill itself is hugely biased and factually inaccurate in the way it expects faculty to teach about race. Additionally, Chávez said she fears the bill creates a hostile environment for Texas professors who research racial history and policy. Chávez said although universal academic freedom can be problematic at times, she is committed to it. 

“It’s in the best interest of the state to be committed to it as well,” Chávez said.

Bill voting begins 60 calendar days after the regular legislative session, meaning H.B. 1607 will not be reviewed until after March 10. Roberts said students and faculty should take advantage of their right to contact elected officials during the waiting period and share their opinions about the bill at public hearings when the time comes. 

“Our country’s history is not perfect,” Roberts said. “I think people should understand that it’s not always rosy and nice. That’s the most important point.”