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State Board of Education Removes Speech Requirement From High School Graduation Standards
The SBOE preliminarily voted Thursday to remove speech as a graduation requirement for high school students in Texas. They vote on a first reading Friday with a final adoption in January.

The State Board of Education preliminarily voted Thursday to remove speech as one of the required courses for high school graduation in Texas.

The board opted to give local school districts final say on whether or not high school students should be required to take speech. Board Member Tom Maynard says speech is a valuable class, but local school districts should decide whether or not it’s required.

“When in doubt, leave it to the locals to decide that. I suspect either most districts will hold on to that or embed that content in other coursework," Maynard said during Thursday's meeting.

The board voted 9-6 to remove the requirement. Board Member Thomas Ratliff says requiring schools to provide speech is an additional scheduling burden placed on local districts.

“I can’t ignore request of my districts to not have yet another state mandate to work around. We’ll trust them to teach these skills in the manner they know best," he said. Ratliff says many small school districts have students take speech in eighth grade because they can't find the time or qualified teacher to teach the class in high school.

But not all board members support the change.

“I always thought it was a smart thing to do and an asset," Board Member Geraldine Miller said. Miller says the reason speech is currently required is because former Education Commissioner Mike Moses introduced the idea during his tenure in the mid 1990's.

During its last session, the state legislature reduced the number of end-of course-exams and requires students to choose at least one of five paths to graduation. On Thursday, the board went step by step through the proposed recommendations, making changes as they go.

The vote was preliminary, and things can still change before the first vote on the revisions Friday. A public comment period on the proposed revisions is planned for December and final adoption of the new graduation requirements is set for January. 

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