The Texas State Board of Education decides what every student in Texas public schools will learn from kindergarten through high school. The board does so by adopting curriculum standards and textbooks for public schools in the state.

For decades, politicians on the State Board of Education and their activist allies have taken advantage of this flawed system to dismiss the advice of experts and scholars. They have instead worked to inject their personal views into textbooks on everything from evolution and climate change to the history of slavery, civil rights and separation of church and state.

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The Latest on Textbook Censorship

You already know it’s a presidential election year. It’s also an election year for the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), with eight of the board’s 15 seats on ballots all across the state this November.

SBOE races don’t always get much attention, which is unfortunate because if you’ve followed us here you probably know how important — or how much of a headache — the board can be. The board has the power to decide what’s taught to more than 5 million public school students, and throughout the years some SBOE members haven’t been shy about pushing the culture wars into the classroom.

So with that in mind, if you live in SBOE districts 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14 or 15, you can vote for an SBOE member this year.

(If you don’t know which SBOE district you’re in, you can find out here.)

In districts 14 and 15, you won’t have a choice on who to vote for as both incumbents — Sue Melton-Malone, R-Waco, and Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo — are unopposed. The rest of you will have contested SBOE races on your ballots.

Below are this year’s SBOE candidates. We encourage you to… Read More

The right’s contempt for facts is especially evident when it comes to issues like climate change and evolution. Here’s some of the science denialism we heard from the right on in 2015. (Click here for previous posts on what we heard from the right in 2015.)

“I’m going to punt on that one as well. That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another. I love the evolution of trade in Wisconsin.”

– Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, responding to questions about his thoughts on evolution during his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

“No, it hasn’t changed my mind. We all have the same evidence, and it’s just a matter of how you interpret it. There’s no dates stamped on these things.”

– Canadian Edgar Nernberg, who serves on the board of a creationist museum that promotes the idea that Earth is only about 6,000 years old, explaining his personal discovery of 60-million-year-old fish fossil.

“Humans, horses, and other animals do not use similar facial muscles and communicative expressions because of shared ancestry, but they do share a common Designer and so we would expect to see similarities in living things — and… Read More

Last June, just before Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, as the new chair of the State Board of Education, outgoing chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, tried to get the SBOE more authority. Today the Texas Attorney General’s Office slapped down that power grab.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office released a formal opinion saying that the SBOE does not have authority under Texas law to set rules for how local school districts adopt textbooks. Cargill and her allies on and off the board had hoped the AG would say otherwise. They’re upset that local school districts can adopt textbooks that the state board doesn’t approve. So they wanted to make it harder for school districts to do so by putting in place a variety of rules to follow.

Paxton’s opinion explains that the Legislature has not given the state board authority to set such rules. The opinion is available here.

We just sent out the following statement.

“We’re certainly pleased to see the attorney general agree that this attempted power grab by certain board members wasn’t supported by state law. It’s important to remember that the board just last month stubbornly refused to establish even… Read More

Fact-Checking Barbara Cargill

Barbara Cargill, the creationist former chair of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), sent supporters an email today announcing her 2016 bid for re-election to the 15-member body. The Republican from The Woodlands near Houston has been one of the leading right-wing culture warriors on the board, helping to politicize the state’s curriculum standards and trying to censor textbook content that doesn’t pass her ideological litmus test. So we thought it would be good to fact-check Cargill’s email announcement. Following are some of what Cargill calls highlights of her 11 years on the SBOE:

“Served on the Governor-appointed Commission for College Ready Texas to improve students’ college readiness”

Well, she might have served on the commission, but she has actually helped undermine college readiness for Texas students. She played a leading role in the disastrous and deeply divisive political battle over new social studies curriculum standards the state board approved in 2010. Cargill and her colleagues were so focused on making sure that the standards reflected their personal and political biases that they paid scant attention to whether the standards aligned with the state’s college readiness standards. In fact, even her creationist ally and predecessor as board chair, Gail Lowe, has admitted as much.… Read More

Some of you might have seen over the weekend a Facebook post — now gone viral — from a Houston mom who was shocked to see the Atlantic slave trade portrayed as a “migration” of “workers” from Africa in a new high school geography textbook. That textbook is one of scores of social studies textbooks adopted by the Texas State Board of Education last fall. The textbooks went into classrooms at the beginning of the current school year.

Over the weekend publisher McGraw-Hill acknowledged that the textbook passage about the African slave trade passage was misleading and said it would immediately move to correct it. Various news outlets have been reporting about this newest controversy involving Texas textbooks — another black eye for Texas.

We just sent out the following press release:

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller responded today to reports about how a new high school geography textbook mischaracterizes the slave trade as simply a migration of workers in American history:

“First of all, we are encouraged that the publisher is correcting this passage downplaying the history of slavery in the United States. But it’s no accident that this happened in Texas. We have a… Read More

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