As school districts across the state come under fire for sending employees to education conferences pushing Drag Queen Story Hour and “porn literacy” for minors, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) sent members to an event promoting “equity and excellence” last month.

Although seemingly innocuous, “equity” is commonly associated with critical race theory (CRT), and education officials often use the term to push for equal outcomes instead of equal opportunities.

The SBOE oversees Texas’ curriculum standards, decides which educational materials and resources students use, and sets graduation requirements. Although the 15-member organization consists mainly of elected officials, Gov. Greg Abbott is responsible for appointing the board’s chair.

Earlier this year, the SBOE faced criticism after suggesting radical changes to K-8 social studies standards, including asking eighth-graders to “compare the goals of the American Indian, civil rights, [LGBT] pride, and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s.” After hearing testimony from concerned parents, the SBOE voted to delay the controversial changes until 2025.

However, the SBOE is still pursuing controversial ideologies.

Equity and Excellence

Last month, multiple members of the SBOE—including Rebecca Bell-Metereau (District 5), Marisa Perez-Diaz (District 3), Tom Maynard (District 10), Aicha Davis (District 13), and Chairman Keven Ellis (District 9)—attended the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) conference in Phoenix, Arizona. NASBE defines itself as “the only organization dedicated solely to helping state boards advance equity and excellence in public education.”

According to Perez-Diaz (District 3), the Texas State Board of Education rejoined NASBE after some “heavy lifting” from Abbott-appointed Chairman Keven Ellis. Perez-Diaz also attended the NASBE conference.

The four-day conference encouraged SBOE members from across the country to attend sessions and talks to “leverage their role in the education ecosystem to lead for equity and excellence.”

One session, entitled “Opportunity to Learn, Responsibility to Lead: An Excellence and Equity Agenda,” called for education administrators to examine leadership principles that would allow them to advance their state government’s education agenda using an “equity” lens.

These principles can help states identify where groups of students have disparate access across a range of opportunities—quality facilities, technology, learning conditions that foster safety and belonging, and advanced coursework, to name a few—and thus help state leaders realize the state’s vision for public education.

The conference also featured the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s (CRPE) director of Impact and Communications, Christine Pitts, as a speaker. The CRPE is a University of Arizona research organization that aims to “identify the systemic barriers to equity and excellence for every student and ways to overcome them.”

To attend, NASBE required SBOE members to pay $800 for one registration fee if they applied early, and $950 if they registered later. For non-members, the fee climbed to $1,250 for early registration and $1,500 for later applicants. The registration fee only provided access to the conference’s programming and did not cover meals, hotel fees, or other travel expenses.

As parents speak out against universities and public schools across the state implementing CRT materials, the SBOE will have to decide if promoting “equity” is in the best interests of their constituents.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.