Mar 31, 2022 - News

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants professors fired for teaching critical race theory

Lt. Gov Dan Patrick in a red tie, gesturing with his fingers

Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to end tenure for new professors at Texas universities.

  • Patrick, a Republican running for re-election in November, wants the Texas legislature to pass a bill in next year’s session that would limit how faculty teach subjects, including critical race theory.

Why it matters: Critical race theory has become a go-to campaign issue for conservatives and has become especially contentious in Texas.

How it works: Every public university system in Texas is governed by a board of regents, appointed by the governor. Without tenure policies, those regents would have a much larger say on employment decisions and the subjects students encounter.

  • Public university faculty employment would depend much more on the political whims of elected officials.
  • Patrick wants to eliminate tenure for new faculty. Already-tenured professors would be reviewed annually. Teaching critical race theory would be a cause for dismissal.

Context: Since the passage of HB3 last year, it’s illegal for Texas public K-12 school teachers to require students have "an understanding of The 1619 Project."

  • Critical race theory is generally a college-level lesson plan.

Zoom out: Since January 2021, 175 educational gag order bills have been introduced in 40 different states, according to a new analysis by PEN America. Of those, 15 have become law in 13 states.

What they’re saying: During a news conference in February, Patrick said the "woke left" has gone too far.

  • "We in the Legislature represent the people of Texas," Patrick said. "We are those who distribute taxpayer dollars. We are the ones who pay their salaries. The parents are the ones who pay tuition. And, of course, we’re going to have a say in what the curriculum is."

The other side: "The unfettered quest for knowledge requires robust and open inquiry on all topics,” Irene Mulvey, the American Association of University Professors’ president, said in a statement.

  • "This widely understood conception of academic freedom is a cornerstone of higher education in its service to the public good and our democracy. Faculty tenure is the only secure protection for academic freedom in our colleges and universities."

What we're watching: Patrick will face either Mike Collier or state Rep. Michelle Beckley in the general election. In 2018, Patrick beat Collier, a Houston-area accountant, by fewer than 5 percentage points.


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