The members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) recently convened for a week of general meetings and committees in Austin. Proclamation 2016, which is the SBOE’s invitation to submit bids for Texas Education Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) aligned instructional materials for the 2016-17 school year, was slated for testimony and discussion on July 18. In a well-intentioned and surprise move, the board pushed pause on the proclamation for one year and now, Tony Diaz, the divisive mouthpiece for the Texas Mexican American Studies (MAS) coalition, has an axe to grind with the SBOE over this.
Diaz, a strategic media hound, threw out a calculated accusation — that the board purposefully “sabotaged” the MAS history elective. He even alleged the SBOE favored policy that conformed “to the Texas Republican 2014 Platform” in a Librotraficante press release, even though no such evidence existed.
However, what happened with the SBOE was not ideological as Diaz would like to suggest it was and it was best explained in a Texas Education Agency (TEA) news release which read, in part:
The financial concern has arisen as districts are adjusting to major changes made through Senate Bill 6 passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011. Prior to SB 6, all instructional materials were paid for and owned by the state.
SB 6 established an instructional materials allotment (IMA) that provides each district and charter school with a sum of money available annually for instructional materials and technology. Districts and charter schools use their IMA funds to purchase instructional materials, which they then own. Any money unspent in one year by a district or charter school can be carried over to the next year.
SB 6 also eliminated the established maximum price that could be charged for each instructional material product. This has made accurately predicting the price of new materials difficult. The pricing structure is also much more fluid because materials may be available in printed books, electronic formats, or software licenses.”
It was quite the game changer, SB 6, revamping the entire instructional materials adoption process. On top of this, TEA estimated costs of 2016’s online books at $78 million.
Breitbart Texas spoke with SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands). She said that she and other board members had been hearing grumblings from constituents over the costs of the current proclamation’s adopted math and science e-books that school districts are purchasing for Fall 2014.
“What caught us by surprise was that the new books, which are all online, cost the same or are even more expensive than the actual textbooks,” she said.
Diaz attended the Proclamation 2016 meeting. Rather than show support for a state that is already overwhelmed physically and financially by a border crisis and the pending costs of folding unknown numbers of migrant minors into the new school year enrollments, Diaz took to lobbing propaganda at SBOE members, who only sought to create a temporary buffer for school districts especially during this confusing and pricier SB 6 transition period.
Diaz asserted that the SBOE action in July will turn “the clock back on Texas to 1917.” This was also in the Librotraficante press release. Although it’s unclear what he’s referencing historically, 1917 was defined by sporadic race riots in America, the Russian Revolution, and the U.S. entrance into World War I.
Interestingly, Cargill told Breitbart Texas that during the Proclamation 2016 meeting, Diaz stepped out and was absent for quite a while. He even missed his own time to testify before the board and he remained out of pocket when expert testimony gave presentations that addressed the new online textbook costs that would impact districts. When he returned, Cargill, by her own choice, offered him the opportunity to speak to the board.
Since the meeting, Diaz has continued to spin his own storylines. He told the San Antonio Express-News that despite the SBOE decision, teachers are forging ahead, preparing shorter MAS units within their history, English and Social Studies courses, and some will also fold content into Hispanic Heritage Month.
In April, the radical pushed hard to upgrade existing ethnic studies electives into full-blown state sanctioned required Chicano Studies highschool coursework which Breitbart Texas reported. Also, he insinuated that Texas education was devoid of any Mexican-American information in the Texas state standards at all. This was not true.
Under the Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Title 19, Part II, Chapter 113, “United States History Studies Since 1877,” it is a requirement of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), subchapter C: High School , 113.41 to clearly incorporate MAS into the fabric of the American experience, including (9) History, which covers a variety of civil rights movements including African-American, Chicano, American Indian, women. Under (9)(C), significant Chicanoleaders are among those studied. This is also included under 113.47 “Special Topics in Social Studies” and 113.51 “Other Social Studies Courses.”
Even a Houston ISD Spanish Advanced Placement instructor told Breitbart Texas that the coursework reflected a “representative body oftext” from Spain, Latin America and the United States, which Breitbart Texas reported.
Nor was there anything new about the April SBOE decision. The upshot was that all hyphenate-American studies would remain electives. Diaz spun the decision into “historic” status in Express-News article.
He even called Texas “less conservative than states that banned MAS” but only one state ever offered the full blown MAS program — Arizona, hardly more conservative than Texas. The May 2014 Phoenix Business Journal called Arizona “officially a purple state.”
In May, California Assembly Bill (AB) 1750 bulleted through the state assembly in a passing vote of 59-20. This will transform the MAS elective into mandated coursework. It will be interesting to see if and how it’s integrated into the state’s additional standards that do not exceed 15 percent of a state’s total standards for a content area that the Common Core permits. California is a Common Core state.
Diaz is the self-proclaimed Librotraficante, a title that explains his trafficking or smuggling of banned books back into Arizona where Tucson Unified School District (USD) shut down MAS in 2012. One such book, “Occupied America,” was the foundation of the divisive Tucson USD program. It is the inflammatory work of Chicano Studies godfather Rudy Acuna, retired California State University, Northridge (CSUN) professor.
There was a reason why Tucson USD shut down the MAS program. It advocated the overthrow of the United States government. Breitbart Texas also reported this in the article “Mexican American Studies and Radical Required Reading.”
Diaz was also named Banned Books Week Hero for defying Arizona’s MAS ban. He’s also the Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College’s North Harris, a two-year associates degree campus. He co-founded Protectors of the Dream, which awards grants and free legal services to Dreamers. Although a fixture on the Texas MAS front, he’s originally from Chicago and wrote that he is the son of migrant workers.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.