Overview of the Texas State Board of Education
The elected members of the Texas State Board of Education serve without pay. They administer an endowment fund called the Permanent School Fund, the earnings from which must by state law be spent on public education, and in particular, on subsidizing the purchase of textbooks for the public schools of Texas. Each year they meet, and conduct public hearings, to decide which textbooks to approve for purchase, and which to reject. The publishers of textbooks are asked to submit copies of the proposed textbooks, to be made available for public review at each of the regional service centers in the State.
In 2001 the SBOE and public considered natural science textbooks, and as a result of public criticism of the content of such textbooks, many were rejected. In 2002 the subject of the textbooks being considered is social science. The 2002 hearing dates for public testimony have been set for July 17, August 23, and September 11, after which the approval decisions will be made by the SBOE. After each testimony session, the publishers submit written responses to the written and oral testimony, which is here being placed online so that anyone may examine how the publishers are altering the content of their textbooks in response to this public criticism, and to assist local boards of education in making their final purchasing decisions.
By state law, the SBOE may only reject textbooks based on factual errors, not bias or omission, so all public reviewers are asked to restrict their comments to matters of fact. In practice, of course, reviews of factual errors have verged into bias or omission when the effect is to convey erroneous instruction, but reviewers should, to have an impact of selection, tie their criticisms to specific passages and errors.
The funding decision of the SBOE does not forbid local school boards from making their own purchasing decisions, but as a practical matter, few of them will purchase rejected textbooks, both because of the higher cost of doing so, and because they would have to explain their decisions to purchase rejected textbooks to their own constituents.
Although several states, most notably California, also make such statewide textbook funding decisions, but because of the large numbers of textbooks purchased every year by Texas, and the infeasibility for publishers to print different versions of their textbooks for Texas and for other states, as a practical matter, the Texas-approved versions of textbooks become the versions sold across the United States. Therefore, the public reviewers have a large influence on the content of public education nationally.
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