Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

October 12, 2006

Leo’s Letter and why she lost

Terri Leo has a nice commentary in the San Antonio Express News explaining how the press got it wrong concerning Attorney General Abbott’s recent opinion regarding the SBOE and textbook selection. She argues that the opinion over-rules the Morales’ opinion and simply reinstates the authority the legislature had intended for the SBOE all along.

MySA.com: Commentary:

At issue had been Texas Education Code Section 28.002(h) that states the State Board of Education “shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of textbooks.”

She, and others, have gone out of their way to state that they were only trying to correct a mistake and were in no way attempting to go beyond what the legislature allowed in terms of SBOE responsibility.

MySA.com: Commentary:

Although this language has been in the TEC for 10 years, Texas Education Agency lawyers repeatedly attempted to delete the section in administrative rule reviews and refused to certify the patriotism and free enterprise portion of the textbook rules, contending it violated the old Morales decision.

MySA.com: Commentary:

The new AG opinion corrects a longstanding misinterpretation of the Texas Education Code by liberal activists eager to do away with these standards. It also clarifies original legislative intent as it relates to textbook content dealing with patriotism, citizenship and the free enterprise system. The issue was never about personal and political agendas, as some have contended. Rather, it concerned the elected State Board of Education members having the authority to ensure that curriculum taught in schoolbooks fosters an appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage. To argue otherwise is clearly to ignore the summary conclusions of Abbott’s ruling

You can read the opinion yourself at the Attorney General’s website. However, if you only read the opinion, you would fail to recognize the brilliant maneuvering on the part of Abbott to avoid getting caught up in the textbook content standards mess. In the opinion, Abbott basically quotes TEC language and says according to that language, the SBOE has the right to do what that language says. Why?

To really understand why you need to read the original request for the opinion by Leo which you can also find at the Attorney General’s website.

Opinion request from Mrs. Terri Leo

General textbook content standards complement the state curriculum. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) tell publishers what textbooks should include. General textbook content standards tell publishers what textbooks should not include – e.g., no sensational violence, no blatantly offensive language or illustrations, no group stereotyping. General textbook content standards are a democratic check and balance by Texas’ elected State Board of Education on editors and authors, monitoring accountability on concerns that the TEKS by their nature cannot address. General textbook content standards existed in old TAC Chapter 67 under the pre-1995 Texas Education Code (TEC). As originally filed in the 74ti legislature, SB-1 stripped the SBOE of all power over textbook selection. But the final version of the new TEC preserved and reaffirmed SBOE authority in this area, including the power to enact general textbook content standards. Together new TEC Sections 3 1.023, 3 1,024, and 28.002 (c) and (h) address this point.

3 31.023. TEXTBOOKLISTS. (a) F or each subject and grade level, the State Board of Education shall adopt two lists of textbooks. The conforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education and contains material covering each element of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level as determined by the State Board of Education under Section.28.002 and adopted under Section 3 1.024. The nonconforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that:

(1) meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education;

(2) contains material covering at least half, but not all, of the elements of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level; and

(3) is adopted under Section 3 1.024.

(b) Each textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list must be free from factual errors.

$3 1.024. ADOPTION BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. (a) By majority vote, the State Board of Education shall:

(1) place each submitted textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list; or

(2) reject a textbook submitted for placement on a conforming or nonconforming list. 28.002

(c) The‘ State Board of Education, with the direct participation of educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers shall by rule identify the essential knowledge and skills of each subject of the required curriculum that all students should be able to demonstrate and that will be used in evaluating textbooks under Chapter 3 1 . . .,

(h)The State Board of Education and each school district shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of textbooks. A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation. for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage.

The key is in the first paragraph where she states that “General textbook content standards tell publishers what textbooks should not include – e.g., no sensational violence, no blatantly offensive language or illustrations, no group stereotyping.” This isn’t the same thing as stated in the TEC that textbooks are to “foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses.”

Now, if you think the two statements mean the same thing, then Leo “won” and major newspapers got it all wrong. But if you think she was asking for one thing and got another then it was a setback. In fact, Chairwomen Miller who submitted the letter on behalf of Leo, seemed to think so:

Star-Telegram | 09/19/2006 | Board gains ground via AG opinion:

“It’s kind of good news, bad news,” said Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas, the board’s chairwoman. “The only downside is that we didn’t get complete authority back.”

I can’t help but think that what she was hoping for was that Abbott would quote her statement about deciding what not to include as part of the opinion since it obviously isn’t stated anywhere in the TEC language. He didn’t so she’s stuck with the oringinal language. However, there is still good reason to worry that this will become “about personal and political agendas, as some have contended.” Let’s see how much she is able justify under “the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses.”

3 Comments »

  1. […] Ken Mercer is running for the State Board of Eduction in district five. He, like board member Terri Leo, believes that the major media outlets in Texas have mischaracterized the Attorney General’s ruling concerning textbooks and the role of the SBOE. If you want to see why I think the media was right, see “Leo’s Letter and Why She Lost” for more information. For someone big on facts, Mercer manages to leave out facts like what the letter Leo actually wrote requested. […]

    Pingback by Ken Mercer: District 5 Candidate « Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas — November 1, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

  2. […] You mean that the Texas State Board of Education is willing to give it’s emphasis on indoctrination for the development of actual thinking skills? You can read more on the Board’s attempt to control “doctrine” here. […]

    Pingback by Teaching them to think right « Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas — October 26, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  3. […] You mean that the Texas State Board of Education is willing to give it’s emphasis on indoctrination for the development of actual thinking skills? You can read more on the Board’s attempt to control “doctrine” here. […]

    Pingback by Texas Ed Spectator » Blog Archive » Teaching them to think right — December 27, 2007 @ 11:30 am


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