Texas public school districts face challenges as 2022-23 school year begins

Many school districts across the state, including Dallas ISD, welcomed students to class last week. But even though we’re only days away from the 2022-2023 school year, the news coming out of Texas schools has already gone off the rails.

The past two years have been difficult for educators and students. The pandemic has helped introduce widespread learning loss and behavioral issues.

And unfortunately for Texas school districts, state lawmakers haven’t made it much easier.

Last year, politicians passed a law banning the teaching of so-called “critical race theory,” which districts say is not even taught in public schools. But in conservative circles, the buzzword has led to attempts to whitewash programs that touch on racism.

After enduring years of budget cuts, relatively low salaries, and attacks from parents and state lawmakers, many Texas teachers are fed up. And 70% of educators are considering leaving the field, according to a poll released earlier this month.

With an impending hemorrhage of employees and students causing trouble, here is some of the craziest news to come from public education so far this fall.

Posters “In God We Trust”

Texas has an abundance of churches, but officials apparently think we need to add more God to institutional buildings. Lawmakers passed a law last year stipulating that schools must display donated “In God We Trust” posters in a prominent location.

Carroll ISD recently announced that it would hang such signs in its schools after receiving contributions from the conservative Christian wireless company Patriot Mobile.

Critics described the law as “Christian nationalism” in action.

Hardened schools

In the wake of the Uvalde Elementary School shooting in May, many districts in Texas rushed to roll out new safety measures ahead of the 2022-23 school year. Authorities installed locks and camera systems and encouraged teachers to carry weapons.

And last week, Governor Greg Abbott announced that applications were open for the state’s $50 million ballistic shield grant program.

“Texas is working with law enforcement to keep children, teachers and schools safe as the new school year begins,” Abbott said in a tweet.

Removal of the Bible and the graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary

North Texas is in the national spotlight thanks to a controversy based on a book brewing at Keller ISD.

Last week, some were outraged after school staff received an email asking them to remove more than 40 titles from classrooms and library shelves. A graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary and the Bible were among the contested titles. (On Friday, the district noted that both books had been released after review.)

Many on social media have started claiming that the Bible and the Book of Anne Frank A girl’s diary had been “banned”, leading Snopes.com to debunk the claim. Keller ISD provided clarification, stating that the Bible and the graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary had previously been challenged and were therefore being reviewed, but that “none of the books being re-evaluated have been banned”.

Teacher resignations

State educators are apparently sprinting for the exit.

From January to July this year, resignations and retirements were almost 50% higher “than the average of the previous four years”, according to the WFAA. In 2022, more than 1,300 teachers fled Dallas ISD, a 56% increase over the average.

A United Educators Association leader described the trend at the WFAA, saying, “It’s a perfect storm right now, and they’re fed up, and they’re quitting the professions in droves.”

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