TFN Joins Education Advocates In Backing Censorship Curbs

TFN Joins Education Advocates In Backing Censorship Curbs

Brief to Texas AG Supports Law Limiting SBOE Authority over Textbooks

March 14, 2006

AUSTIN The Texas Freedom Network, Texas State Teachers Association and other education advocates have signed on to a legal brief that supports an 11-year-old state law designed to stop textbook censorship by the State Board of Education.

“Our children’s education should not be held hostage to the personal agendas of elected officials on the state board,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “The Legislature properly and clearly acted in 1995 to prevent board members from editing textbooks based on their own political and religious beliefs.”

Miller warned against returning to the days when state board members demanded hundreds of changes to school textbooks, such as the removal of illustrations on breast self-exams for cancer and photos of working women from health textbooks. (Please see at the bottom other attempts by board members to censor public school textbooks.)

Returning to the state board full authority over textbook content would have serious consequences for the education of Texas schoolchildren, Miller said.

“On subjects such as biology, history and health, state board members each year have demonstrated that they would abuse any expanded authority over textbooks,” she said. “As a result, the ‘facts’ our children learn would change with the majority of the board.”

In January, the State Board of Education (SBOE) at the urging of member Terri Leo of Spring asked Attorney General Greg Abbott to strike down a 1996 legal opinion upholding legislative limits on the board’s authority over textbook approval. Republican and Democratic legislators had voted to curb the SBOE’s authority in 1995. They acted because SBOE members were demanding that publishers make sometimes hundreds of changes to textbooks submitted for state approval.

The state’s attorney general at the time, Dan Morales, issued an opinion in 1996 confirming that the Legislature had acted properly and clearly. Under the law, the SBOE must approve textbooks that conform to state’s curriculum standards, are free of errors and meet manufacturing requirements. Board members have lobbied legislators to change the law. Lawmakers have refused to do so, most recently in the 2005 legislative session.

Other groups signing on to the brief are the Texas Association of Biology Teachers, the Texas Federation of Teachers, the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the Texas School Health Association, People for the American Way, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).