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How Texas schools became the frontline in the culture war

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Schools boards are the frontline in the battle over the political future of Texas. Conservative forces are raising record amounts of money to fuel political campaigns to win seats on school boards while focusing on national wedge issues like banning books, whitewashing history and breaking down the barrier between church and state.

The far right is betting that they can pack the school boards due to low turn-out elections and the reduction in education coverage in local news.

The new book They Came for the Schools: One Town's Fight Over Race and Identity, and the New War for America's Classrooms looks at push to remove books from North Texas ISDs.

The book zeroes in on Carroll Independent School District, which is in the wealthy Fort Worth suburb of Southlake. For years Carroll ISD has been under scrutiny for what’s been called a culture of bullying against students of color and students who weren’t Christian. For example, a social media post where students were chanting racist slogans went viral. The school reacted by promising diversity training, but there was a backlash. A newly elected school board was voted in on an anti-diversity platform and prohibited the anti-racist bullying education efforts. But this month a federal report found multiple civil rights violations against students following claims of racism and bullying.

They Came for the Schools pulls back the curtain on the powerful forces driving this crusade to ban books, rewrite curricula, limit rights for minority and LGBTQ students—and, most importantly, to win what Hixenbaugh’s deeply informed reporting convinces is the holy grail among those seeking to impose biblical values on American society: school privatization, one school board and one legal battle at a time.

Mike Hixenbaugh is a senior investigative reporter for NBC News. His new book is They Came for the Schools.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org.

*This interview will be recorded on Thursday, May 16, 2024.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi