Education Reform for Rural Hispanics

Can the Good Neighbor Commission Work in Texas?

Memorandum from Texas Governor Allan Shivers in May 1950 telling Texans how they can be good neighbors for Spanish-speakers.

In May 1950, Democratic Governor Shivers addressed the progress of the Good Neighbor Commission, a federally funded investigation into the state of Spanish speakers. In the memo, Shiverd advocated for the acknowledgment that Spanish-Mexican descent people are entitled to the same consideration and treatment afforded to other citizens of the state. He said that acts of discrimination and segregation are isolated incidents by people who do not share the majority of Texan thinking. Shivers urges all heads of departments to apply the same consideration for employment.

Shivers urged large education reform. "See that your school does its human relations job to cultivate the inclusion of all students. Ensure the school is getting full attendance. Ask your County Judge to enforce the Gilmer-Aiken Law. Ensure conversational Spanish is taught. Ask the question; does teaching Texas history create prejudice?"

The Gilmer-Aikins laws, which Shivers points out above, increased funding for schools in terms of supplies, transportation, and teacher salaries. These laws made education more accessible for rural areas. It established a mission of equal education for every child. These laws are relevant because many Spanish-speakers occupied rural areas at the time and faced many difficulties in gaining an education.

Allan Shivers

Governor Shivers in 1955 speaking at his inauguration.

Governor Shivers was influential in his political power as Lieutenant Governor at the time these bills were passed. He appointed the members of the education committee as well as the Gilmer-Aikins committee to speed up the process of passing these laws. 

In his book, Mexican Inclusion: The Origins of Anti-Discrimination Policy in Texas and the Southwest, Matthew Gritters talks about the efficacy of the Good Neighbor Commission. He states that the commission did a good job of recording discrimination when it occurred, but lacked enforcement authority that Mexican-American leaders felt was necessary to eliminate discrimination. He says the committee was nothing more than a resolution condemning racism. However, the passing of the Gilmer-Aikin laws was a huge success. The previous state of public education had been inadequate for many children. Isolated schoolhouses in rural areas could not accommodate the growing immigrant population.

Governor Allan Shivers was certainly an influential advocate for Spanish speakers. This major success not only advanced equality for Spanish speakers but also established a baseline education for all children. His advocacy for the Gilmer-Aikins laws and how they relate to the Good Neighbor Commission shows a record of political advocacy for the Hispanic identity. 

In Governor Shivers's memo, he desired the Good Neighbor policy against racism in Texas to be a model for other governments in the world. He enthusiastically concluded: “I say we can make the Good Neighbor Policy work in Texas!”