On Monday, the Texas House of Representatives considered a bill authored by Democrat State Rep. Mary Gonzalez (Clint) related to adding a course in “digital citizenship” to sixth-grade students’ curriculum.

Before being amended by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) to remove “media literacy” as part of the curriculum, the bill would have allowed teachers to determine what news sources are deemed “credible” as well as what information was deemed “rhetoric that incites violence.”

The bill passed out of the House Public Education Committee unanimously at the end of March. It is jointly authored by Republicans and Democrats, including State Reps. Jeff Leach (R–Allen), Giovanni Capriglione (R–Southlake), and House Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody (D–El Paso).

The bill was passed by a vote of 113-29 to its third and final deliberation in the House tomorrow. Upon final passage, the bill will be sent to the Senate.

Other Approaches to Civics This Session

Notably, other bills that would promote civics education have not gone as far in the legislative process.

Senate Bill 1776 by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R–New Braunfels) was heard in the Senate Education Committee on April 8, but it has not yet been passed out of committee. Its companion, House Bill 1776 by State Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney), was passed out of the House Public Education Committee on April 15 but has thus far not been set on a calendar for the overall House of Representatives to consider. Both of these bills would include an elective course on the founding principles of the United States as well as the posting of founding documents in public school buildings.

Another bill, filed by State Sen. Larry Taylor (R–Friendswood), was heard in the Senate Education Committee on April 8 but was left pending. Its companion, authored by State Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Friendswood), has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Public Education Committee for tomorrow. These bills would require the instruction of “informed patriotism,” directing students to study both America’s and Texas’ founding documents.

The Senate has scheduled a public hearing on a bill, authored by State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), that would encourage the adoption of a curriculum that would promote the understanding of the moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the United States as well as the processes of governance at the local, state, and federal levels coupled with the founding documents of the nation. It also discourages the teaching of controversial issues of public policy or social affairs unless the teacher of the curriculum promotes all diverse viewpoints. The bill would also require that no teacher provide coursework in association with an organization lobbying at any level of government or promotes social or public policy advocacy, as well as prevent a teacher from teaching that any race or sex is superior to another. There are two companion bills in the House: one by State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands), which was heard in the House Public Education Committee on April 13, and the other by State Rep. James White (R–Hillister), which has yet to receive a hearing.

What Does it Mean?

Though House Bill 129 was amended, it still includes provisions that allow for a teacher to define what is considered “rhetoric that incites violence” as well as the appropriate ways to deal with “cyberbullying,” leaving opponents still critical of the measure, as they believe parents can do those things more efficiently.

With slightly more than 40 days left in the 87th Legislative Session, it is unclear whether the bill will make it through the entirety of the legislative process. Thus far, it is the furthest any civics-related bill has gone this legislative session.

Jeramy Kitchen

Jeramy Kitchen serves as the Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard as well as host of 'This Week in Texas', a show previewing the week ahead in Texas politics. After managing campaigns for conservative legislators across the state, serving as Chief of Staff for multiple conservative state legislators, and serving as Legislative Director for the largest public policy think tank in Texas, Jeramy moved outside of the Austin bubble to focus on bringing transparency to the legislative process.