Some Good News: Texas Ed Board Revises Textbook Adoption Rules

This week we got a hopeful sign — at least a little one — that politics might not entirely govern the State Board of Education’s upcoming adoption of new social studies textbooks. Partly in reaction to how anti-evolution activists nearly hijacked the adoption of science textbooks last year, state board members adopted new rules that will govern the process of adopting textbooks going forward.

To be sure, much stronger protections are needed. But, as we said in the following press release we just sent out, these new rules are modest steps in the right direction.

New rules approved by the State Board of Education this week are a modest but necessary step toward ensuring that decisions about textbook adoptions for Texas public schools are based on facts and sound scholarship, not politics, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today.

“While we’d like to see even stronger protections against political meddling, these new rules at least show board members are aware that they need to clean up the adoption process,” Miller said. “It’s way past time to stop SBOE members and activists with an ax to grind from manipulating this process and politicizing our students’ textbooks.”

The new rules will help improve transparency and promote the role of educators and scholars in textbook adoptions. Among them is a provision that would have helped prevent a single anti-evolution activist serving on an official review team from nearly derailing the adoption of a leading high school biology textbook in 2013.

Another rule could prevent SBOE board members from interfering in the independence of the review phase of textbook adoptions. Individuals appointed as official state reviewers for the science textbook adoption in 2013 have said that the SBOE chair — who rejects the science of evolution — participated in the work of panels reviewing high school biology textbooks last August. That interference compromised the independence of the textbook review, Miller said.

“Board members have plenty of opportunities to express their opinions about the textbooks they are considering,” she said. “They should let the reviewers do their work without political pressure or other inappropriate interference.”