It's Time to Stand Up for American Indian/Native Studies in Texas

The Texas State Board of Education

AINS poster for petition
Art by Deante’ Moore.

Since 2020, a committee of native community members and allies have been developing a course in American Indian/Native Studies. The AI/NS course has been piloted at Grand Prairie ISD for two and a half years and was approved as an Innovative Course by the Texas Education Agency in the summer of 2023. Since then, the course has been adopted in Robstown ISD and Crowley ISD and is in the process of being adopted in Fort Worth ISD and several other districts. SBOE board members and the public has had since June of 2023 to review the TEA-approved course.

The AI/NS course was slated to be heard for “First Reading” in January of 2024, but the item was mysteriously absent when the agenda was released on January 19. We learned later that new SBOE Board Chair, Aaron Kinsey, who was appointed by Governor Abbott in December of 2023, had decided to pull the item to have more time to review the course. On February 2, Chair Kinsey stated that he would discuss the course with fellow SBOE members in February and that he simply needed to “learn more.” During this time and in the weeks that followed, more than 200 community members throughout Texas have sent a total of more than 3 thousand emails to SBOE members, including Chair Kinsey, asking him to put the course back on the SBOE agenda for April of this year.

As the April SBOE meeting approached, there was very little indication that Chair Kinsey had used the extra time to discuss the course with fellow board members. By the end of March, he admitted that the course had never been put on the April agenda and that the course was already available to students as an innovative course. This is misleading as the current AI/NS course expires after 2025 and there is no guarantee that it will be renewed. Districts are not likely to offer a course that could be canceled in future years. The course is running out of time, and if this pattern of delay continues, then both the review process and the course itself could be placed in a permanent limbo.

We are now calling on all Texas parents, educators, students, and community members to help get the American Indian/Native Studies course back on track for review and approval this year.

Why should you support this course?

The Texas SBOE was one of the first state boards to adopt high-school level courses in Mexican American Studies in 2018 and an African American Studies course in 2020. Since the 2020-2021 school year, course enrollment has grown from 6,500 students for both classes combined to nearly 18,000 students in 2022 and 2023. Texas students have shown a strong interest in taking Ethnic Studies.

In addition, the 15 following tribal councils, educational departments, and cultural organizations have reviewed the AI/NS Innovative course standards and endorsed the course as written.

  • The Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas
  • The Citizen Potawatomi Nation
  • The Comanche Nation
  • The Society for Native Nations
  • American Indians at the Spanish Colonial Missions
  • The Indigenous Cultures Institute
  • The Institute of Texan Cultures
  • The NACCS K-12 Tejas Foco
  • TCU's Native and Indigenous Student Association
  • UNT’s Native American Student Association
  • UTA’s Native American Student Association
  • Lubbock Compact Foundation
  • NAACP Lubbock Branch
  • Southwestern University’s Education Department
  • TCU’s Department of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies

Finally, an additional 45 organizations throughout Texas have called on the Texas SBOE to review and adopt the AI/NS course this spring so that it can be ready for state-wide TEKS adoption in the fall of 2024. The Dallas Morning News Editorial Board has also called for the course to move forward.

For more than 40 years, Texas educators, parents, community members, and students have been calling on the Texas SBOE to create Ethnic Studies courses. In fact, the Texas SBOE has approved courses in Ethnic Studies since the late 1960s, only to fail to give them the needed support. Today, Texas students have voted with their feet and shown that they want Ethnic Studies in their high schools.

By approving the first American Indian/Native Studies course in Texas history, the Texas SBOE has the chance to not only make Texas proud. It has the chance to make history by acting differently than their predecessors have acted in the past.

If you would like to support the AI/NS course, please sign the petition below and share this petition with your family, friends, co-workers, and most active listservs.

Who should sign this petition?

Please sign this petition if you are a current resident of Texas, if you went to school or taught in Texas, or if your children are currently enrolled in Texas schools.

Can I do anything else? Send en email to Chair Kinsey and the rest of the Texas SBOE:

After you sign this petition and share it with family and friends, we encourage you to write Chair Kinsey and the Texas SBOE an email. This can be the most effective way to make your voice heard.

Additional links and information:

Public Testimony at the Texas SBOE:

Media Coverage and Community Posts:

Local Implementation:

Local school districts and community members should know that the AI/NS Innovative course can be implemented at the district level in 2024-2025. We encourage you to begin that process now. This will help keep the course from being canceled after 2025, but in no way is innovative course status enough. The AI/NS course deserves a more stable place in the Social Studies TEKS-approved elective course roster.

Contact information:

For questions about this petition or if you would like to write a letter of endorsement or support in other ways, please email the Ethnic Studies Network of Texas at ethnicstudiesnetworkoftexas@gmail.com.

To: The Texas State Board of Education
From: [Your Name]

I stand in strong support of the American Indian/Native Studies innovative course as approved by the Texas Education Agency in the summer of 2023. I call on the Texas State Board of Education to place the AI/NS innovative course on the next available agenda so that it can be reviewed by SBOE members and adopted into the Social Studies TEKS in time for the 2024-2025 academic school year.

The AI/NS course is fair, rigorous, and balanced. The course standards are “high-quality” and are more than ready for the TEKS review process. The course is also “age-appropriate” as it would be available to students from 10th to 12th grade.

Native and Ethnic Studies communities in Texas strongly support the AI/NS innovative course as approved by the TEA in the summer of 2023. The course has gone through rigorous review and revision, including, two years under development at GPISD, a summer with the TEA’s own Social Studies TEKS Review Work Group E, two and a half years of a pilot at GPISD, and six months working with the TEA to arrive at the innovative course that is available for public view. In addition, Robstown ISD and Crowley ISD have adopted the innovative course, and Fort Worth ISD and several other districts are in the process of adopting the course as well. In August of 2023, the Curriculum of Instruction reviewed the course and voted to bring it to the full board for review. In November of 2023, then SBOE Board Chair Ellis expressed his intent to bring the course for review the following year without any objection.

The new SBOE Chair, Aaron Kinsey, appointed by Governor Abbott in December of 2023, did not bring the AI/NS course for review in January as expected. Instead, he asked for more time to review the course himself, a step that replicates the work already done by the Curriculum of Instruction in August of 2023. Additionally, SBOE reps have had since June of 2023 to review the course if they had any concerns.

Since February of 2024, we have received no indication that the AI/NS course will be added to the April 2024 SBOE agenda or that there is any intent to review the course in time for adoption in the 2024-2025 academic school year. For this reason, we call for the following:

1) We call on SBOE Chair Kinsey to bring the AI/NS innovative course for “First Reading” at the next available board meeting in April of 2024. The course is fair, balanced, and of "high quality." It is ready to review.

2) We call on SBOE board members to engage in a good faith review of the course that honors the field and tradition of American Indian/Native Studies. AI/NS scholars, educators, and community members stand at the ready to help address any concerns that may arise during the review process. For this to be possible, however, the course has to be brought to “First Reading.”

3) We call on the Texas SBOE to work together to complete the review and adoption process in time for the course to be added to the Social Studies TEKS-based catalogue by the fall of 2024.

The Texas State Board of Education has a history of leadership when it comes to Ethnic Studies. The Texas SBOE made Texas the first state in the nation to adopt a secondary level Mexican American Studies (MAS) course in 2018 and, in 2020, unanimously approved an African American Studies (AAS) course. Since then, course enrollment for MAS and AAS grew to nearly 6,500 students during the 2020-2021 school year. Just two years later, and despite going through a major pandemic, Ethnic Studies course enrollment is up nearly 300%, with close to 18,000 students enrolled in a TEKS-based MAS or AAS course during the 2022-2023 school year (Source: TEA).

Simply put, Texas students want Ethnic Studies in their schools.

Students take and complete these courses for good reason. Academic and empirical studies have shown that Ethnic Studies courses can improve school attendance, raise academic interest, and elevate academic achievement across multiple subject areas (Cabrera et tal 2012; Penner and Dee 2017).

Thousands of hours of volunteer and TEA staff time have gone into developing the AI/NS innovative course. More than 900 Texans want this course to be available to their students.

Let’s make Texas proud. Let’s honor our history. Let’s honor the history of American Indian and Native people in Texas. Let’s make American Indian/Native Studies available to all Texas high school students who would like the opportunity to take the course.

Sincerely,

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