6/26/2011 3:10 PM
As expected, the conference report for Senate Bill 6 violates the Republican Party of Texas Platform. The main platform violation is a provision that allows groups of college faculty to produce instructional materials (i.e. textbooks) for school classrooms without any oversight or approval by the elected State Board of Education. The underlying bill is an effort to encourage school districts to use electronic substitutes in lieu of printed textbooks.
The bill creates three lists that districts may choose from: one controlled by the elected SBOE, one controlled by the appointed commissioner (but it was amended to allow the elected SBOE to remove materials), and an "open source" process controlled by college faculty. It is this third list that violates the Republican Party of Texas Platform.
Specifically, the platform reads: "The SBOE must have sole authority over all curricula content and state adoption of educational materials and ancillaries, (regardless of methods of delivery, including but not limited to textbooks, laptops and electronic delivery systems). This process must include public hearings." Section 31 of the conference report to SB 6 violates the Republican platform in two ways. First, it allows the SBOE to review and comment but not reject books. That is not "sole authorty over all curricula content and state adoption ..." Second, the process for adopting so-called open-source materials does not have to include public hearings, and even if it does, the board has no authority to reject the materials.
When the House debated the bill earlier in the special session, Rep. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) offered an amendment on the open source provisions. The original type-written version of the amendment would have brought SB 6 into full compliance with the Republican Party of Texas platform. But Hancock allowed Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) to change the amendment in ink. That change altered the amendment so that the State Board of Education could review and comment, but not reject the so-called "open source" materials.
Many of the instructional materials in the past that have had problems with the SBOE had the involvement of college faculty. The Environmental Science book that was rejected in 2001 for being political propaganda for the environmental movement and for unfair attacks on the oil and gas industry was written by a college professor. Similarly, a lot of the "fuzzy math" and "whole language" books had substantial involvement from academia. When the SBOE rewrote its history standards, academics on the panel objected to including Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan in history books because there were already to many "dead white males" in the standards, according to Bill Ames -- the member of the panel who proposed their inclusion.
Many conservative members of the SBOE are worried that the "open source" loophole in the conference report to SB 6 will open the door for universities to submit "fuzzy math" or whole language textbooks, and the board will have no ability to stop such materials from entering classrooms. Additionally, conservatives are concerned that the open source provisions could result in history books that contain more discussion of Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X than Ronald Reagan and James Madison.