Strengthening Public Schools
Textbook Adoption Process
Texas spends tens of millions of dollars each year on new textbooks. As a result, publishers often create textbooks for this state and also sell the books to schools in other states. Texas is also one of 22 states with a centralized process for adopting textbooks. Censorship proponents work hard to influence this process and have strong allies on the 15-member, elected State Board of Education (SBOE). The SBOE approves or rejects textbooks for adoption.
After years in which some SBOE members pressured publishers to edit content to which they had political or ideological objections, the Legislature in 1995 stripped much of the board’s authority over textbook approval. The new law permitted the board to reject textbooks only if the books:
- fail to meet the state’s curriculum standards,
- include factual errors, and/or
- do not meet manufacturing standards.
Approved textbooks may be placed on one of two lists: conforming and nonconforming. Conforming textbooks meet all of the state’s curriculum standards. Nonconforming textbooks meet at least half, but not all, of the state’s curriculum standards. Local school districts may use state funds to purchase textbooks from either the conforming or nonconforming lists. Local school districts may not use state money to purchase textbooks not approved by the SBOE.
The Adoption Process
|Event||Actions by Censorship Proponents|
|The SBOE calls for bids from publishers, listing curriculum standards (the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS) and other requirements.||Work to influence content as publishers begin development of textbook programs. Sometimes publishers submit potentially controversial chapters to political interest groups for review.|
|Publishers submit completed textbooks to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), 20 regional service centers (for public review), and state review panels.||Recruit private reviewers to analyze publishers’ materials separate from the official state review process.|
|Based on recommendations from the state’s review panels and TEA staff, the state education commissioner prepares a preliminary report on textbooks for the SBOE.||Submit lists of “errors” directly to publishers. Many of the “errors” are in fact ideological objections to content.|
|Texas residents may file written comments on textbooks and may testify at the SBOE’s public hearings before the final board vote on adoption.||Orchestrate testimony for or against certain textbooks, focusing on items such as word choice, photos and illustrations in the books.|
|Publishers report to the TEA all revisions they plan to make to their textbooks.||Redouble efforts, marshaling public opinion against textbooks they still oppose.|
|The SBOE votes to reject a textbook or place it on the state’s adoption list.||Lobby SBOE members to reject books that still contain passages or illustrations that religious, social and economic conservatives find objectionable.|
|Local school districts may use state funds for buying only those instructional materials placed on the state’s official adoption list.||Try to influence purchasing decisions by distributing material about textbooks and lobbying officials in local school districts.|