- Lawmakers in red states have already filed a handful of bills to reform higher education in 2023.
- The bills target a variety of topics including critical race theory, diversity, equity and inclusion and transgender athletes.
- Two states may consider bills to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates at colleges and universities.
Red states are preparing to make higher education a legislative priority as lawmakers return to their chambers for the 2023 session.
Republicans secured a legislative majority in 28 states following the 2022 midterm elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. While lawmakers will continue to be sworn into office throughout the month, many have already pre-filed bills that will tackle issues such as transgender athletes, critical race theory (CRT) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Josh Hawley To Introduce Legislation Putting Universities On The Hook For Student Debt)
Several states have already filed bills which would ban men and boys from competing in women’s and girls’ sports. If passed, the bills would add to the already 18 states which have enacted restrictions on transgender eligibility in athletics at either the K-12 or collegiate level.
Missouri lawmakers have already filed 10 bills in both legislative chambers to require athletes compete based on their biological sex, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported. Senate Bill 2, Senate Bill 48 and House Bill 170 all tighten eligibility standards for K-12 and collegiate athletes, and Senate Bill 165 would prohibit students from using locker rooms designated for the opposite sex.
“I had a parent contact me several years ago who has a daughter. She’s in middle school here in Missouri and the mother and her husband also participated as college athletes. They were concerned that their daughter and other females across the state might be unfairly advantaged if a male is allowed to participate against them in a competitive sport,” Republican state Sen. Mike Moon, who sponsored SB48, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
He said that it has a good chance of being signed into law.
“This year I think it might happen,” he said.
The bills’ sponsors, state Sens. Denny Hoskins and Jill Carter and state Rep. Brian Seitz, did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Texas, which currently restricts transgender eligibility at the K-12 level, will consider a bill filed by Republican state Rep. Valoree Swanson to bar men from competing in women’s sports in college. Swanson did not immediately respond with comment.
South Carolina House Bill 3464, sponsored by six Republican state representatives, would prohibit teachers from requiring students “personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to the tenets of ‘critical race theory.'” The bill defines CRT teaching as “any sex, race, ethnicity, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior,” that “individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity, color, or national origin,” or that groups of people are responsible for historical events.
The bill’s sponsors, state Reps. Steven Wayne Long, James Mikell Burns, John R. McCravy, Josiah Magnuson, William Chummy and Jordan Pace, did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Texas is also expected to take action against CRT in college classrooms after Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced last February he wanted to end tenure for new professors to curtail CRT being pushed in the classroom. He revisited this plan in November, saying he would include tenure “reform” in his 2023 legislative priorities, the Texas Tribune reported.
The Lone Star State will also consider a bill aimed at curtailing DEI on college campuses. Republican state Rep. Carl Tepper’s bill would prohibit public colleges from funding DEI offices or any office which promotes “[DEI] beyond what’s necessary to uphold the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Patrick and Tepper did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Republican state Rep.-elect Jeanette Ward of Wyoming told the Daily Caller News Foundation in December that she intends to defund University of Wyoming programs after it suspended a church elder from reserving a table at its student union because he displayed a sign featuring the name of a transgender student. She told the DCNF she wants to push to defund the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office and the gender studies program.
“The University of Wyoming is a land-grant university and has no business with these woke programs,” she told the DCNF.
Additionally, Missouri filed a bill which would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates in higher education. Ohio had a similar bill filed during the 2021-2022 legislative session and it is currently in the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee.
State Sen. Nick Schroer of Missouri and state Rep. Scott Lipps of Ohio did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
This story has been updated with comment from Missouri state Sen. Mike Moon.
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