Texas Education Board Illegally Censoring School Textbooks
Texas Education Board Illegally Censoring School TextbooksEdited by: Michael Hess - Fri, Nov 16 2007Texas State Board of Education Does End Run Around Anti-Censorship Law, Church and State Watchdog Group Says
BBSNews 2007-11-16 -- (TFN) AUSTIN – The president of the Texas Freedom Network today called on the state attorney general to demand that the State Board of Education stop violating a law that prevents board members from censoring public school textbooks.
"The state board is clearly thumbing its nose at the law," TFN President Kathy Miller said. "A united faction of its most radical members is attempting an end run around the Legislature's clear intent to bar them from censoring textbooks. If they get away with it, then it's open season again on textbooks that teach about evolution and other topics that a majority of board members may have personal and political objections to."
Earlier today, the state board voted to reject a proposed mathematics textbook for third grade. Board members who voted to reject that textbook refused to give reasons for doing so. They claimed that the board is not required to say why it rejects any textbook. Yet under a law passed by the Legislature in 1995, Senate Bill 1, the state board may reject a textbook only if it fails to cover the state's curriculum standards, has factual errors, or fails to meet manufacturing requirements. Subsequent opinions from two state attorneys general – a Democrat and a Republican – have upheld those limits on the board's ability to control textbook content.
TFN's Miller said the issue at stake is about far more than the rejection of a single mathematics textbook today. TFN takes no position on whether that textbook should have been rejected.
"If the state board does not have to give a reason for rejecting a textbook, then the law is toothless," she said. "And if that's the case, then the content of our schoolchildren's textbooks will be based on the personal and political beliefs of whatever majority controls the state board. That's precisely what the Legislature acted to prevent in 1995."
Board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, offered the motion to reject Texas Everyday Mathematics, published by Wright Group/McGraw Hill a division of McGraw Hill. She and others voting for the motion dismissed claims by other board members that the board was acting illegally by not providing reasons for rejecting the textbook.
The Legislature acted in 1995 after years in which board members demanded publishers make sometimes hundreds of politically motivated changes to their textbooks in order to gain approval. Local school districts may not use state money to purchase new textbooks unless the state board has approved those textbooks.
In today's vote, Dunbar was joined in voting to reject the math textbook by board chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan; and members David Bradley, R-Beaumont; Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; Terri Leo, R-Spring; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; and Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio. All seven members are on the record as supporting efforts to water down discussion of evolution in public school science classes. Some have even voiced support in the past for teaching "intelligent design"/creationism alongside evolution.
Three other Republicans and three of the board's five Democrats voted against rejecting the mathematics textbook. One Democrat abstained, and another was absent.