Science Textbook Vote Sends a Message: Right-Wing SBOE Members Value Political Agendas, Oil and Gas Industry Over Climate Change Education

Board’s Final Votes on Which Science Textbooks to Adopt for Public Schools Exposes Hostility to Texas Students Learning Scientific Facts on Climate Change, Evolution


November 17, 2023

Emily Witt (she/hers), Texas Freedom Network (TFN), [email protected]
Paul Oh, National Center for Science Education (NCSE), [email protected]

AUSTIN, Texas – State Board of Education members today delivered a mixed verdict on whether they want Texas public school students to learn the truth about climate change and evolution in their science classrooms.

The State Board of Education considered science textbooks from 22 publishers for adoption in Texas and approved most of them. Eight publishers ultimately failed to get their products on the board’s final approved adoption list after Republican members raised personal objections to content related to bias against the fossil fuel industry.

“In a weird Texas two-step, we saw both progress and disturbing politics today,” said Texas Freedom Network Organizing Director Seneca Savoie. “The board approved some science textbooks while singling out others for a perceived bias when they presented the same basic content. These votes sadly reflect a continuation of the board’s long history of putting politics ahead of the education of Texas kids.”

The board on Tuesday initially rejected textbooks submitted by 12 of the 22 publishers. Board members raised a variety of objections, some focused on pedagogical issues. But some of the members insisted that a number of textbooks appeared to be biased in clearly addressing the causes of climate change and complained that others did not offer “alternatives” to evolution — even though Texas’s science standards correctly omit fringe views on these topics.

Today board members reviewed content changes publishers proposed to meet those objections. They voted to reverse their rejection of textbooks from just four of the 12 publishers that failed to get approval on Tuesday.

Among the rejected textbooks:

  • EduSmart (K-8, HS Biology) Board Republicans, including an oil field services executive, complained on Tuesday that this publisher’s textbooks included pictures and passages that cast oil and gas in a negative light in discussions about climate change. Proposed changes by the publisher didn’t change its fate today.
  • Green Ninja (6, 7, 8) A Republican board member complained about a lesson asking students to write a news story warning family and friends about weather and climate extremes in the context of climate change. Although the publisher changed that lesson, a board majority today rejected all three textbooks. Green Ninja was one of just two publishers whose coverage of climate change in Grade 8 textbooks earned a superior rating in the joint review by the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education.
  • Discovery Education (K-8, HS Biology) Among objections to this publisher’s content on Tuesday was a complaint from a Republican board member that the publisher somehow promoted the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

Among the many changes proposed by publishers in textbooks that won approval today are misleading suggestions that evolution is still under scientific debate, denials that carbon dioxide is a pollutant in the context of climate change, and passages that appear to diminish the role of human activity in causing climate change. One publisher even removed illustrations of the evolutionary lineage of human beings from its high school biology textbook.

Even so, many adopted textbooks still teach students that climate change is real and note the role of human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels. In addition, all of the adopted high school biology textbooks offer a factual account of evolution.

“It’s ridiculous to force publishers to navigate a political minefield simply to win approval for textbooks that teach the truth about science, including challenges caused by climate change that our kids will inherit,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director at the National Center for Science Education. “These kinds of political games will likely discourage publishers from submitting their textbooks in the future, which will ultimately limit the options Texas’s public schools have.”