Texas risks losing billions in federal funds over Abbott LGBTQ directive, Democrats say

Texas colleges and universities risk losing billions in federal funding if they comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) directive to ignore a new federal rule bolstering nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ students, Democrats warned a state education board Monday.

In a congressional inquiry letter to Texas’s Higher Education Coordinating Board, the state agency overseeing public post-secondary education, four House Democrats from Texas said public colleges could violate students’ civil rights and lose government funding if they follow Abbott’s orders to disregard changes to Title IX — the federal civil rights law preventing sex discrimination in schools and education programs that receive government funding — that the Education Department finalized in April.

The new rule, which covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time, is slated to take effect Aug. 1, though federal judges have temporarily blocked enforcement in 10 GOP-led states.

Abbott in a letter to President Biden in April called the changes “illegal” and said his state would not implement them.

Monday’s letter, led by Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) and signed by Democratic Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, accuses Abbott and other public officials who have pledged to reject the Biden administration’s rule of using schools as “political pawns.”

“We acknowledge Texas colleges and universities have been placed in an undesirable position due to the coercive pressure of a zealous Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General with a proven track record of using the perks of their public office to punish those who don’t bend the knee to their prejudiced political program,” the lawmakers wrote.

“If Texas educational institutions fail to adapt their policies in accordance with the forthcoming Title IX revisions, the consequences would be catastrophic,” they added. “By losing billions of dollars of federal funding, institutions would be unable to provide scholarships needed for most students to afford and access our colleges and universities. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of would-be Texas students would have their educational opportunity put at risk.”

Refusing to adhere to the administration’s new rule, which also strengthens nondiscrimination protections for pregnant students and makes changes to how schools handle claims of sexual misconduct, may also put students’ civil rights at risk, Texas Democrats argued.

They referenced a lawsuit filed last month by two University of Texas at Austin professors challenging provisions in the rule that excuse student absences for out-of-state abortions and require schools to respect transgender and gender-nonconforming students’ pronouns.

“This type of prejudiced, narrow-minded view is the exact kind of harm Title IX’s civil rights protections were created to prevent,” the lawmakers wrote.

A federal judge earlier this month handed a small victory to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) by blocking similar changes to Title IX that were proposed by the Biden administration in 2021.

Although Title IX is a federal law, each administration takes a different approach to enforcing its regulations, which schools are then required to follow as a condition of receiving funding from the government. Former President Trump last month said he would reverse the Biden administration’s rule “on day one” of his presidency if he is reelected in November.

Disapproval resolutions filed this month by House and Senate Republicans aim to strike down the new rule before its enforcement date, and lawsuits challenging the law in more than a dozen Republican-led states are still pending.

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