Texas Freedom Network Statement on Passage of SB801

by Dan Quinn

TFN PRESIDENT: STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEMBERS WILL USE THIS BILL TO RETURN TEXAS TO THE WORST YEARS OF THE TEXTBOOK WARS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2017

AUSTIN – Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is warning that today’s passage of SB801 by the House and Senate threatens to return Texas to the worst years of textbook censorship by the State Board of Education.

SB801 allows the state board to determine whether content in textbooks under consideration for use in Texas public schools is “suitable for the subject and grade level.” Current state board member and former chair Barbara Cargill, R–The Woodlands, has already made clear she and her colleagues will use that provision to reject textbook content they don’t like.

Prior to 1995, state board members sometimes demanded hundreds of changes to textbook content they didn’t like, often for personal or political reasons rather than factual accuracy. If publishers didn’t make the changes, the state board could reject their textbooks for use in Texas public schools. But in 1995 the Legislature finally reined in this authority, requiring that the board approve any textbook that conforms to the state’s curriculum standards and is free of factual errors. Democratic and Republican state attorneys general have upheld those limits in formal opinions, but board members have repeatedly pushed to get around or eliminate them altogether.

Statement from TFN’s Kathy Miller:

“Today the Legislature gets a failing grade by forgetting some very important lessons from history about why we shouldn’t let politicians decide which facts are suitable and which are not in our kids’ textbooks. We fear many legislators are going to regret their vote for this bill in the years ahead. Parents certainly will. This board has done virtually nothing over the past 22 years to suggest that it will act any more responsibly than it did before the Legislature wisely reined in its authority in 1995. We might as well call this the State Board of Textbook Censorship now because they will use this bill to force publishers to remove or change any content they don’t find ’suitable’ simply for personal or political reasons. This will turn already contentious textbook adoptions into an even bigger circus and embarrassment for Texas than they already are.”

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, individual liberties and public education. Since its founding in 1995, TFN has been the leading watchdog monitoring the State Board of Education and its authority over curriculum standards and textbooks for Texas public schools.

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