DALLAS — Senator Royce West says timing is everything.
So, the Democrat from Dallas is questioning the timing of Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that state agencies and public universities should no longer use diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives when hiring.
“Why in the world would you put that out during Black History Month?" he asked on Inside Texas Politics. "That’s a hell of sensitivity to the issue. Why would you put it out the same day, or the day after, we dedicate a portrait to Opal Lee here in the Senate chambers? That’s a lot of sensitivity. Why in the world would you tell an agency to do something that they should be doing in the first place: hiring based on merit.”
The memo from the governor’s office said DEI initiatives illegally discriminate against certain demographic groups and that hiring can only be based on merit.
West said DEI is still needed in the state because it helps to bring in more applicants for jobs in Texas. He also argues that since there are still disparities in job opportunities, it’s important to bring in folks from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.
“The DEI is not just hiring someone because they’re Black, or they’re Hispanic, or whatever the case. It’s broadening the pool of people that can be considered by an agency,” said West. “All of us know that discrimination is illegal. That’s what we’ve been fighting about for all these many years. Quit discriminating.”
In his recent State of the State address, Abbott also named seven emergency items lawmakers can vote on immediately. That includes expanding school choice through Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which would allow parents to use tax dollars to home school their kids or send them to private schools.
West has been a member of the Senate Education Committee for three decades. And while he says he’s a public school advocate, if such a campus has been failing parents year after year, he says something must be done.
“If you have a community that has a school in it where the kids have underperformed over a four or five year period and nothing’s been done by the public school system, you bet, I’m going to consider some alternatives,” West told Inside Texas Politics. “The public alternative is the one I want. But if it’s not serving those kids, I can’t in all good conscience look at you and my constituents and say that I’m not going to do the best I can I order to provide an educational opportunity.”
West doesn’t think the votes exist, though, to pass the ESA proposal this session.
“And there are rural legislators that have already told me that they’re not supportive of this particular bill,” he said.
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