Texas State Board of Education moves to censor or reject science textbooks submitted in Texas

Texas state flag.

Amid political objections to content, particularly on topics like climate change and evolution, State Board of Education members today voted to withhold preliminary approval for science textbooks from more than half of the 22 competing publishers in Texas this year.

“The well-being of Texas children and their right to an accurate, honest education was rarely mentioned by anti-science board members, who blatantly ignored their duty to adopt textbooks that meet the Texas standards and teach the truth about evolution and the human impact on climate change. Instead, the right-wing majority solely focused on pushing their own political and religious agendas,” said Emerald Belmarez, organizing strategist for Texas Freedom Network. “Tragically, young Texans who will be forced to meet the challenges of the climate crisis will be the ones to suffer.”

Publishers can offer to make changes to win approval before a final vote on Friday. But many objections offered by board members today were so broad and vague that it will be difficult for publishers to make appropriate revisions in such a tight timeline. Board members often were unable to provide specific examples of problems they claimed to see in the textbooks. Many specific objections by board members would require publishers to remove the scientific consensus by experts on climate change and evolution.

“These textbooks present evolution and climate change in compliance with the Texas state science standards and as these topics are understood by the scientific community, as multiple independent reviews have established,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education. “If these textbooks are nevertheless rejected or censored by the board, the losers will be Texas’s students.”

Among the rejected textbooks and objections from board members:

  • Board members refused to give initial approval to publisher McGraw-Hill’s high school biology textbook because they wanted the textbook to include alternative theories about the origin of life. One board member specifically insisted that the textbook, and textbooks in general, should teach students biblical creationism alongside evolution.
  • The board refused to approve the Green Ninja textbooks for Grades 6, 7, and 8 after one member objected to a lesson asking students to talk to their parents about “future weather and climate extremes” in the context of climate change.
  • The board refused approval for all textbooks from publisher EduSmart after one member, an executive for an oil field services company, said that one of the textbooks includes “pictures” that suggested bias and cast the oil and gas industry in a “negative light.”
  • One member argued against adopting any textbooks from publisher Accelerate Learning because she didn’t like how its parent company makes investment decisions. Other members criticized the textbooks for their treatment of evolution and climate change. The board ultimately refused to approve four of the textbooks ostensibly for pedagogical reasons.

A few textbooks managed to win approval from the committee despite similar criticism from members of the board:

  • The board granted initial approval to a Grade 5 science textbook from Savvas Learning Company despite one board member’s objection that it discussed the “negative effects” of fossil fuels and didn’t address the “negative effects” of lithium mining for batteries in China.
  • The board granted initial approval to the Savvas Learning Company high school biology textbook despite one member’s objection that the textbook’s content discounted the discredited theory that the COVID-19 virus escaped from a Chinese lab.

In recent years, 1995 restrictions that limited the SBOE’s ability to edit and censor textbooks have been weakened by legislation like HB 1605, which passed during this year’s regular session. Today’s events echo back to how the SBOE operated over two decades ago — during the 2002 social studies textbook adoption, members demanded publishers make substantial edits to comply with their own religious and political ideologies.

The final decision on the textbooks is up to the full board, which is expected to take a vote on Friday, November 17.

Paul Oh
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Paul Oh is Director of Communications at NCSE.