In casting the lone vote against social studies textbooks earlier this month, State Board of Education Member Dan Montgomery not only showed courage, but followed Texas law.
In 1995, the Legislature stripped board members of authority to decide content and shifted textbook decisions to local school districts. The 15-member elected board is supposed to approve all textbooks that contain at least 50 percent of curriculum standards, meet manufacturing codes and are free of factual errors.
Instead of focusing on whether the books met curriculum standards, the board became consumed with whether they adhered to certain ideology or whether they adequately represented Latinos and African Americans in Texas history. The latter is a legitimate point that should have been taken up with publishers at the start of the textbook process to ensure that books complied with what is being taught in public schools. Forcing publishers to make additions at the end of the process -- other than to correct errors -- amounts to editing content.
The board's long-running battle over ideology is the reason lawmakers stripped the board of its once-unlimited authority to decide textbook content. Despite the law, board members have found a clever but dubious way to circumvent the law. They declare facts to be "errors," then proceed to "correct" them.
For instance, after pressure from the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, publishers changed references in books to characterize global warming as theory rather than fact, despite agreement by the scientific community that global warming is real. The board approved such revisions without input from scientists or experts regarding their validity.
By spinning facts into errors, board members have put Texas' 4 million public school students at a disadvantage, especially on national tests and college entrance exams that won't use the same political lens to test students on their knowledge of economic systems, history and environmental issues.
On our pages this week, Montgomery confirmed the board's improper actions on textbooks.
"I talked with the president of one of the major publishers. He said he discovered long ago that the (education board) is intent on driving content, and he admitted that his company has deleted what it considers factual information and has added material deemed erroneous to appease some board members."
In other words, publishers are replacing facts with errors in books that students will use for the next six years.
Montgomery said he will try to halt the practice -- a noble goal that is unlikely to pass the board. We urge the Legislature to strip the board of all textbook authority so it can do no more damage to Texas students.