Texas HB 1605 Kicks Indoctrination Out, Returns Control to SBOE and Parents
By Carole Hornsby Haynes July 7, 2023
Across the nation parents, angry over ideological indoctrination, are demanding transparency and control over what their children are learning. In Texas, the passage of HB 1605 does just that.
Prior to 2011, the State Board of Education (SBOE) had control over the content of instructional materials (IM) and Open Education Resources (OER). With the Texas legislature’s passage of SB 6 in 2011, the SBOE was stripped of control over content. From that point on, only 50 percent of IMs had to be aligned with Texas curriculum standards (TEKS) with the other 50 percent open to the whims of unelected and unaccountable publishers heavily influenced by national teachers’ unions. Academic content was fused with Common Core, social justice, LGBT, Critical Race Theory, and wokeism. The consequences of the low alignment of content with the TEKS and the indoctrination are evidenced in the abysmal STAAR scores that were released recently.
Historically the SBOE has been responsible for content suitability but, under SB 6, publishers could self-certify that their content was aligned with the TEKS. As a result, often IMs contained less than 20% of the adopted standards, according to former public school teacher, SBOE member, and now Texas House Representative and bill co-sponsor Terri Leo-Wilson.
Under SB 6, schools could spend state tax money for IMs that were not on the SBOE-approved list. District use of state funding for SBOE-unapproved technological products, especially online learning, literally exploded after 2011. This began the shift away from textbooks to online learning and wide use of SBOE unapproved open resources.
Since 2011, NAEP math and reading scores have declined in Texas. During Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath’s presentation to the SBOE and public of the oversight requirements of the bill, he noted that a large body of research shows the use of digital learning has been a causal factor for the decline, especially in reading.
Despite claims by critics, HB 1605 was one of the best pieces of legislation from the 2023 Texas legislative session. Let us look at a few of the many reasons.
HB 1605 addresses the state-wide low reading scores with a ban on three-cueing that uses the whole language approach rather than phonics. The SBOE is authorized to adopt an approved list of phonics instructional materials.
The SBOE again will have the authority to require each IM to be aligned up to 100 percent of the adopted TEKS, effectively getting rid of indoctrination. Publishers who violate the alignment in any fashion will be penalized under rules set by the SBOE.
Neither HB 1605 nor the Texas Education Agency (TEA) requires a district to adopt or use SBOE supported IMs or those included on its approved list. However, districts are incentivized with more money per student if they do use materials closely aligned with the TEKS. The Commissioner is required to work closely with the SBOE on instructional materials, despite critics claims that he holds authoritarian power.
Critics claim that providing a parent portal to view instructional materials 30 days prior to the beginning of the school year, along with an appeal process, constitutes an attack on schools. How is allowing parents to see what their child will be learning an attack on the school? Do taxpayers who are spending billions for public education not have the right to see how their money is being spent?
Contracted public school teachers should be expected to follow the rules and that includes teaching content aligned with the curriculum standards. However, critics claim that teachers should be able to “design and differentiate lessons” and use other materials of their choice without “disciplinary proceedings.” Yet this is precisely how teachers are bringing Common Core, Critical Race Theory, LGBTQ, wokeism, and even the 1619 Project curriculum into the classroom. By claiming that these are not “adopted curriculum” and remaining silent on teacher use of online supplemental materials, school boards and educators are doing an end run around state bans and deceiving parents.
Because the term “open education resources” was first adopted by UNESCO in 2002, critics claim HB 1605 supports a UNESCO agenda and technology vendors. However, using digital materials is not a requirement but rather a decision left up to school districts. HB 1605 requires OER to be made available to schools only upon approval by the SBOE and evaluation by teachers, parents, and other experts. However, a school district may use an SBOE unapproved OER provided the district can prove to TEA that teachers prefer the alternative materials and certifies annually that the OER covers100 percent of the TEKS. The Commmissioner is required to ensure that OERs are available to schools for free use, reuse, modification and sharing but prohibits the Comissioner from requiring the use of OERs.
When Texas schools were shut down, there were no SBOE approved online curricula that teachers could use to continue instruction remotely so students were penalized with the loss of months of learning. HB 1605 provides the solution. The Commissioner is authorized to purchase an OER license; acquire ownership in OERs; or develop, adopt or use any combination to acquire OER instructional materials which will be then SBOE approved.
Additional details for Commissioner Morath’s presentation can be found in the report by well-known retired Texas educator, Donna Garner.