Preview: State Board of Education’s August Meeting

The State Board of Education (SBOE) will hold its regular meeting in Austin next week. We will be closely watching several items, with special focus on those related to proposed science textbooks and charter schools. 

The meeting will begin Aug. 29 with a public hearing on Proclamation 2024, which includes proposed instructional materials to meet the revised K-12 science Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) that will be the required curriculum standards beginning with the 2024-2025 school year. The teaching of certain scientific facts like evolution and climate change has a complicated and problematic history in Texas. Independent reviews of our state science standards have rarely been favorable, especially on these topics.  

In the past, the SBOE has largely accepted instructional materials that meet the requirements of law and rule, including a required percentage of TEKS coverage, leaving the question of overall quality and appropriateness to local districts. This changed in practice with the Texas Resource Review (TRR), a process that was a pet project of Commissioner Mike Morath, that reviews individual materials for additional quality metrics such as grade-level vocabulary. 

While the SBOE has had some influence in the TRR process, it has largely been executed by the Texas Education Agency. And there has been some squabbling between Morath and the board specifically over the science rubrics and whether they aligned with our state versus national standards. 

The TRR process has now largely been codified as part of HB 1605, which we have written about extensively. What was bound to already be a fraught conversation over these textbooks based on existing review processes, will now be further complicated by the board’s new charge to assess a product’s quality. The board conducted a workshop on HB 1605 in June and will begin its official rulemaking process on this bill with a discussion item Tuesday.  

The big question going into next week is: Will this board, more conservative than the body that revised the science TEKS, honor the existing process or insert members’ bogeyman ideologies into its deliberations? 

We will also be watching the board’s action on the “no-contact” rule for the charter application process. Texas AFT has provided testimony against amending this rule, which bars charter school applicants, or those acting on behalf of the applicant, from contacting those parties integral to the approval process, including the SBOE. The no-contact rule reinforces the integrity of the application process by ensuring there is no undue influence that could raise concerns about ethics and that the process is conducted with as much transparency as possible. 

The original petition (initiated by the Texas Charter School Association, of course) requested that the rule be completely eliminated; that request was only partially rejected by the board. The current proposal would only bar contacting the SBOE (not the commissioner or the external review panels) until the applicants reach the capacity interview phase of the process. This measure will receive its final vote at this meeting. Anything short of a rejection will have a negative impact on the fairness and transparency of the application process. 

We’ll provide a full recap of the meeting in an upcoming Hotline.