The State Board of Education (SBOE) will vote to adopt new K-12 social studies textbooks, instructional and online materials on Friday, November 21 in Austin. This final week of the multi-month social studies textbook adoption process is not for the weary. Progressives continue to relentlessly push their politics, still trying to influence the public and shape the narrative in a fight over ideology and content.
The new products will be used in classrooms beginning the 2015-16 school year. Beforehand, on Tuesday, November 18 at 1 p.m., a special session will be held that the public can attend on the social studies materials. The SBOE encourages public comment during this meeting. An unofficial first vote on the textbooks will also take place.
On November 11, the Houston Chronicle ran an opinion piece by former SBOE member and Trinity University, San Antonio, Associate Professor Michael Soto. He decried the same imaginary rightwing education conspiracy previously voiced by Texas Freedom Network (TFN) President Kathy Miller.
Soto alleged some of the social studies textbooks up for adoption were filled with pages of “intellectually dubious, politically driven dogma hardly worth the paper they’re printed on.”
It was also his opinion that the problem was “the laughable social studies standards that the board put in place in 2010.”
That could be perceived as a very provocative statement from Soto, who rewrote the SBOE rules to reduce the board’s power and did it while he served on the board in 2010-11.
In 2012, the San Antonio Express News reported that before Soto’s changes “if a school wanted to buy a teacher’s manual from a publisher, it was obligated to also shell out money for textbooks. Soto eliminated that requirement, enabling publishers to tailor their products more precisely to the needs of individual districts.
However, Soto marginalized the SBOE in the Houston Chronicle. He said their “curriculum debates have brought more ridicule down on the state during the past four years than any issue this side of secessionism.”
He elaborated, “That was partially remedied in 2011 by Senate Bill 6, which provided school districts some latitude to go outside the SBOE-approved book list.”
Senate Bill 6 (SB 6) changed a number of things as well, ending a “mandate that all electronic instructional materials be platform-neutral and it no longer blocked access to Android, iPad, Kindle, Windows or Mac format,” according to the San Antonio Express News article.
It added an Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA), funds paid directly to each local school district, open-enrollment charter schools and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) to purchase instructional materials and related items such as technological equipment.
TFN’s 2011 report on SB 6 chronicled how the diminished board continued to approve the state’s curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) and reviewed proposed publisher instructional materials, but school districts were no longer limited to choosing only SBOE-approved materials with their IMA.
When Soto ran for the SBOE seat, radical rag the Burnt Orange Report called him “the savior.” Soto was backed by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrat senator from San Antonio.
Van de Putte lost to Republican Senator Dan Patrick in this month’s lieutenant governor race. Former SBOE member and Trinity University professor Joe Bernal also supported Soto.
In that 2012 San Antonio Express News article, Soto stated, “If I were a publisher, I would simply bypass the state adoption process. I expect a number of publishers to market directly to school districts.”
In 2011, it was TFN’s hope that down the road school districts would no longer continue to purchase textbooks with the SBOE seal of approval.
Besides Soto’s opinion piece, the Houston Chronicle ran a rant from Miller in September. In it, she balked that conservatives hijacked the social studies textbook adoption process.
On November 12, Miller resurfaced in the Austin American-Statesman, strong-arming social studies textbook companies to make changes over climate change.
The Statesman reported, “Two of the four publishers that the left-leaning education watchdog group Texas Freedom Network targeted in September over climate change-related issues in their textbooks have since made sufficient changes, a spokesman for the group said.”
McGraw-Hill and Pearson did not fall in line with Miller’s demands. She said it was because “they are trying to increase their odds of gaining approval from an education board that used to be dominated by staunchly conservative Republicans.”
She griped, “Parents must insist that our students get textbooks based on the recommendations of scholars and other experts rather than on the demands of politicians who pressure publishers into distorting research and facts.”
It has yet to be proven, only debated. The science-based documentary Not Evil, Just Wrong took on the global warming theories presented in An Inconvenient Truth. Bill Nye, the Science Guy went mano-a-mano with Rep. Marsha Blackburn on climate change. Breitbart News reported that Weather Channel founder John Coleman called climate change “a lie” but a University of California, Santa Barbara professor insisted it’s real but not caused by humans.
While they sort this out, maybe more pages of the science textbooks should be devoted to Newton’s three laws of motion, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics.
The climate change culture war runs deep in education and perhaps, any ideological argument is a good one for Miller to hurl even when it is not relevant. The books up for adoption are social studies not science. The Statesman quoted Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director for the nonprofit National Center for science education who said, in part, “There is no reason, in a social studies textbook, to be having a debate about the science of whether climate change is caused by humans.”
No matter what Miller asserts, the Texas Education Code (TEC) also plays a role.
Texas Education Agency (TEA) spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson told Breitbart Texas, “To be eligible for adoption, instructional materials must meet at least 50% of the TEKS and 100% of the ELPS (English Language Proficiency Standards) in both the student version and teacher version of the instructional materials.”
She was referencing (TEC) Sec. 31.023, 28.002 and 31.024.
Other criteria the SBOE must determine is the percentage of TEKS covered by each submission and the “instructional material on the list must be free from factual errors,” according to the TEC.
In the textbook adoption process, publishers can “(1) agree with the recommendations and take no action; (2) provide documentation supporting coverage of TEKS in their original submissions; (3) submit new content to cover TEKS considered not addressed; (4) exercise any combination of these options; or (5) withdraw their products from the process,” according to the TEC policy Culbertson shared.
The TEA website notes that in accordance with 19 TAC 66.63(b)-(d), publishers also had the option to request a show-cause hearing to protest preliminary recommendations.
Initial publisher review results are in the Report and Recommendations from the Commissioner of Education Regarding Instructional Materials Offered for Adoption under Proclamation 2015.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.