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School board votes to develop new multi-cultural history classes

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The state school board has voted to develop new classes to teach students multi-cultural history

The issue came up after a new school board member wanted the state agency to create materials for a Mexican-American social studies class.

To win support Ruben Cortez, form Brownsville, added African, Asian, and Native Americans to his list.

"This turned into a very large issue across the state and I don't apologize for that because I think this is a conversation that needed to be had," said Cortez.

Students would not be required to take the classes, they'd be offered as electives. Board member Marty Rowley from Amarillo saw the Cortez amendment as a welcomed compromise.

"The other aspect I appreciate about this resolution is that it includes the other cultures and one of the things I've had a concern about is that there are a number of cultures that make up Texas and Texas citizens and I think it's important we're giving difference to them as well. As local districts determine," said Rowley.

Local school districts already have the authority to create this kind of course work, which is why some on the Board questioned the need of acting now. Patricia Hardy a board member from Fort Worth was worried that calling for new textbooks, which will be needed for the additional courses, will create a financial burden on cash strap school districts.

"If you started out in the hole, you will stay in the hole when you add stuff to it," warned Hardy.

There is also a concern that offering additional Electives in Social Studies could take funding away from other math and science courses that are being emphasized.

Supporters of a State managed Multi-Cultural course plan believe it will provide continuity and will help promote the special classes in all school districts. The vote is considered to be a symbolic statement in promoting diversity, but some on the board suggested there was another motivation behind the issue. Board member Thomas Ratliff offered this suggestion for those voting for the new course plan.

"Spend your time developing this curriculum, and talking with your school districts around the state to implement this class, and stop making us, the 15 of us in this room a political football and start doing what's best for 5 million kids and instead of what's best for headlines, please."

The issue is expected to come up for review when the Board meets again in July. The new instructional materials are not expected to be available until the 2016 school year at the earliest.

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