SB 1515 & SB 1396

Recent data analysis confirms that math and reading proficiency measures have fallen since 2019.  Any classroom teacher can attest to that, but the National Assessment of Educational Progress has analyzed data from the DOE’s National Center for Education Statistics to prove it.  Luckily, here in Texas we have a historic budget surplus to help districts tackle this, right?

Maybe, maybe not.  But as we wait for the state budget negotiations to play out, we can rest assured that at least the Texas Capital is taking care of our children’s moral education, even if their reading and math proficiencies remain low and classrooms continue to be egregiously understaffed.

Last Thursday the Texas Senate passed a bill that requires each classroom in every public school in Texas to display a “durable poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments” in a “conspicuous place” in a “size and typeface that is legible to a person with average vision from anywhere in the classroom”, per the language of Senate Bill 1515.

The bill’s author Sen. Phil King stated that it “reminds students all across Texas of the importance of a fundamental foundation” of America.  (I’d like to note that reading and math skills are solid foundations, too.)  The bill still needs to pass in the state’s House of Representatives.

Predictably, the backlash includes the arguments that lawmakers should not dictate what religious materials kids are exposed to, nor should taxpayer money be used to purchase religious texts.  Furthermore, many think that parents—not schools—should be talking with their children about religion.  (What happened to parental choice in public schools?  Is that only for books and vouchers?)

Another bill also passed in the Senate (SB 1396) that requires districts to allow time daily for praying and reading the Bible (or other religious text) in school.  Parents or guardians would have to sign a consent form, and this time could not interfere with instructional time.  (But how is that possible?  Where else would it come from?  Electives?  Lunch?)  The bill prohibits prayer or the reading of a religious text over a PA system, but it removes the ban on encouraging students to pray or meditate that is currently in the state education code.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick  said, “I believe that you cannot change the culture of the country until you change the culture of mankind.  Bringing the Ten Commandments and prayer back to our public schools will enable our students to become better Texans.”  That may be, but perhaps the state capital could focus its resources on improving our kids’ academic success and overall health and safety, not their culture or values.

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