House Bill Gives State Board Of Education A Free Hand To Censor Textbooks

House Bill Gives State Board Of Education A Free Hand To Censor Textbooks

H.B. 220 Would Restore Authority Stripped from SBOE a Decade Ago
April 19, 2005

AUSTIN Legislation before the House Public Education Committee today is a gift to State Board of Education (SBOE) members who want to censor textbook content based on their personal beliefs, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today.

“Giving a politically charged and ideological body like the State Board of Education a free hand in deciding what goes into and what comes out of textbooks would be irresponsible and outrageous,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “The ‘facts’ our children would learn would change with the majority that controlled the board at any given time.”

The proposed legislation, House Bill 220 by Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, is set for a hearing before the House Public Education Committee today. H.B. 220 directs the SBOE to determine that textbooks are free from “errors of commission or omission related to viewpoint discrimination or special interest advocacy on major issues.”

“If this bill passes, we will see a diluting of history and science, a narrowing of perspectives and a removal of factual information if it doesn’t fit with the personal political and religious beliefs of the majority of state board members,” Miller said.

The bill would restore authority over textbook content that the SBOE lost in 1995, a year after board members demanded more than 1,100 changes to new health textbooks. For example, they demanded that illustrations of self-exams for breast cancer be removed from the health books. Board members also worked to remove a photograph of a woman carrying a briefcase, saying the photo undermined traditional family values.

To make the textbook review process less vulnerable to the ideological whims of the SBOE majority, legislators curbed the board’s authority in 1995. Currently, board members may reject a textbook only if it fails to meet state curriculum standards, includes factual errors or does not meet physical specifications.

Even so, board members have continued their efforts to censor information they don’t like in health, science, social studies and other textbooks. For example, board members in 2003 tried to water down the discussion of evolution in biology textbooks. In 2002 they targeted history textbooks for having an “overkill of emphasis on cruelty to slaves.” Publishers also agreed to change the date of the Ice Ages from millions of years ago to “in the distant past” so as not to conflict with Biblical timelines on Earth’s creation.