Texas Special Session has very marked priorities this year, with one of them being the critical race theory bill. While the subject has gained attention nationwide, the enormous insistence made by legislators and even the governor does raise some questions about whether they’re pursuing the matter out of some kind of misdirected passion or if there’s something else going on.
During the 87th regular session of Legislature, HB3979 was the key Critical Race Theory ban bill. The Senate’s last-minute floor substitute, Floor Amendment 1, added a civics training program. This training was analyzed by the Legislative Budget Board, which concluded that the training would have an estimated cost of $15M a year starting 2023. On the Senate floor, the author argued the training program would be covered by the state and not the local school districts. With time running up, the bill was being moved back and forth and the version of the bill with the $15 million training provision ultimately did not pass. The House version without it did.
The biennial state budget passed by the Legislature during the regular session and approved by Governor Abbott does not have funding for the civics training program in the bill as first passed by the Senate.
But now, the bill presented on the special session, Senate Bill 3, also includes the civics training program, and the fiscal note of the bill also estimates a $15 million a year cost starting 2023 because of that provision. It is unclear if the Texas Legislature will adopt funding for the bill.
While having money thrown into the bill is not necessarily something unheard of, a much bigger problem comes into play. A witness from the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), which was criticized for its CRT buzzword list last month, testified in favor of SB3 on Thursday in front of the Senate State Affairs Committee. TPPF already has a summer civics training program for teachers approved by TEA, meaning they could be eligible for a pay-off of $15 million a year.
The TPPF witness who testified failed to disclose that information, creating a huge conflict of interest that has suspiciously gone unnoticed until now.
It is worth mentioning that US Sen. Cornyn has been pushing for a civics bill that contemplates $1 billion for civics training, so perhaps that is where those pushing for the state bill hope to get the money from.