SBOE approves new health and science curriculum, hears info on classroom censorship and a misguided proposal for charter school enrollment

Rebecca Bell-Metereau gesticulates at her desk during S-B-O-E
SBOE Member Rebecca Bell-Metereau

On November 20, the State Board of Education (SBOE) made some headway in recognizing the need for a broader sex education curriculum when it voted to include education around the use of contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as a part of the new heath standards for middle and high schools. These inclusions are a major step forward and away from the SBOE’s previous approach on sexual education, which placed much more emphasis on abstinence alone.  

However, the SBOE vote failed to recognize the health needs of Texas students who identify as LGBTQIA+. Additionally, the SBOE’s Republican majority voted against including in the sexual education curriculum any changes that would teach students about consent in relationships and how this is crucial to the well-being and safety of everyone.   

On science curriculum, the SBOE succeeded in voting for a measure that would require high-school science courses to “acknowledgeman-made climate change. While this is a positive addition, acknowledgement doesn’t go far enough. Acknowledging something is real doesn’t translate into material curriculum changes that teach the importance of the topic. Enough SBOE members chose once again to capitulate to right-wing, climate-change-denying rhetoric. 

Earlier that week on November 17, Education Commissioner Mike Morath told board members that TEA had not released any guidance for educators to help interpret SB 3, the classroom-censorship law that took effect yesterday. SB 3, along with previously passed HB 3979, applies restrictions on curriculum around race in social studies courses, and it mandates new requirements for civics instruction. 

Also introduced to the SBOE was a Texas Education Agency (TEA) proposal to delete rules that currently require charter schools to enroll only students in the approved geographic boundary authorized in the charter school’s charter agreement.  Currently, geographic boundaries are approved by TEA and the State Board of Education (SBOE) as part of the charter approval process. 

The proposed change would allow charter schools to misrepresent who they serve without facing any consequences. Texas charter schools have a history of marketing to certain demographics of students that are less expensive to teach, often excluding special education and bilingual learners. This rule change means charters could exacerbate charter profiteering by marketing enrollment to kids who live nowhere near their schools.
This proposed rule change would have significant implications for charter school policy and public school funding going forward in Texas. Texas AFT has joined with other education organizations—such as the Texas Association of School Administrators, the Texas Association of School Boards, and Raise Your Hand Texas—to oppose the rule changes. You can view the letter to the SBOE on the issue here.