AUSTIN — A Republican state lawmaker has launched an investigation into Texas school districts over the type of books they have, particularly if they pertain to race or sexuality or “make students feel discomfort.”
State Rep. Matt Krause, in his role as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, notified the Texas Education Agency he is “initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content,” according to Monday letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.
Krause’s letter provides a 16-page list of about 850 book titles and asks the districts if they have these books, how many copies they have and how much money they spent on the books.
His list of titles includes bestsellers and award winners alike, from the 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates to last year’s book club favorites: “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall and Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.”
But race is not the only thing on the committee chair’s list. Other listed books Krause wants school districts to account for are about teen pregnancy, abortion and homosexuality, including “LGBT Families” by Leanne K. Currie-McGhee, “The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves” edited by Sarah Moon, and Michael J. Basso’s “The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality: An Essential Handbook for Today’s Teens and Parents.”
Krause, a Fort Worth lawmaker and founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, is running for state attorney general against Ken Paxton. Krause declined to comment and no explanation was given as to how these books were chosen.
Krause sent notice of the investigation to Lily Laux, the Texas Education Agency deputy commissioner of school programs, as well as some Texas school superintendents. His letter did not specify which school districts Krause was investigating.
Krause informs districts they must provide the committee with the number of copies they have of each book, on what part of campus those books are located and how much money schools spent on the books, as well as information on any other book that violates House Bill 3979, the so-called “critical race theory law” designed to limit how race-related subjects are taught in public schools. Critical race theory, the idea racism is embedded in legal systems and not limited to individuals is an academic discipline taught at the university level. But it has become a common phrase used by conservatives to include anything about race taught or discussed in public secondary schools.
The law states a teacher cannot “require or make part of a course” a series of race-related concepts, including the ideas that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that someone is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” based on their race or sex.
School officials have until Nov. 12 to respond. It is unclear what will happen to the districts that have such books.
The letter did not give a specific reason Krause was launching the investigation, only that “the committee may initiate inquiries concerning any ‘matter the committee considers necessary for the information of the legislature or for the welfare and protection of state citizens.’”
Lake Travis ISD officials received the letter and are trying to figure out what the next steps are, a spokesperson said. Officials in that Austin-area school district are speaking with other school districts to figure out what this means for them. In nearby Round Rock ISD, the district spokesperson, Jenny Caputo, texted it will “take significant staff time to gather the information to reply to this request.” The district’s legal team is still reviewing the request.
State Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, who is vice chair of the committee, said she had no idea Krause was launching the investigation but believes it’s a campaign tactic. She found out about the letter after a school in her district notified her.
“His letter is reflective of the Republican Party’s attempt to dilute the voice of people of color,” she said.
Neave said she doesn’t know what Krause is trying to do but will investigate the motive and next steps.
The TEA and the rest of the Committee on General Investigating members did not immediately respond to requests for comment.