ICYMI: The 74 Reveals New Biblical Content in State’s ‘High-Quality Instructional Materials’ 

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May 30, 2024

CONTACT: press@texasaft.org

ICYMI: The 74 Reveals New Biblical Content in State’s ‘High-Quality Instructional Materials’ 

On Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency revealed its first round of Open Education Resources mandated by House Bill 1605. The new curriculum, as reported by The 74, includes significant Christian references and materials. 

AUSTIN, Texas — Since the passage of House Bill 1605 last year, Texas AFT and other public education supporters have raised concerns over the bill’s overreaching and overly prescriptive approach to “lightening the load” on teachers.  

On Wednesday, we discovered a new and major concern. On the same day the Texas Education Agency released its first round of Open Education Resources (OER) mandated by HB 1605, national nonprofit news organization The 74 revealed extensive new references and materials related to the Christian Bible in the OER materials for K-5 Reading & Language Arts.  

Reporter Linda Jacobson writes:  

“While largely hidden from public view, the redesign sparked behind-the-scenes debate long before its release. When a leading curriculum publisher balked at the state’s request to infuse its offerings with biblical content, Texas officials turned to other vendors. They include conservative Christian Hillsdale College in Michigan and the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, which supported an unsuccessful effort to require the 10 Commandments in every classroom, according to a list obtained by The 74.” 

Biblical references in the new elementary school curriculum include “the story of Queen Esther — who convinced her husband, the Persian king, to spare the Jews” and the depiction of Christ’s last supper.  

The OER materials, which are now available for public review and will be sent to the State Board of Education, are just that, open and freely available. School districts will not be mandated to use them, but they will be incentivized to do so. As The 74 reports:  

“Officials are quick to point out that adoption of the new program is voluntary. But a potential $60 per-student incentive it is offering for participation may make it difficult for cash-strapped school systems to refuse.” 

TEA and Gov. Greg Abbott were quick to frame these materials as resources to support a return to “classical education,” dismissing concerns over the religious infusions as exaggeration or misinformation. But it is plainly impossible to view these OER materials out of the context of current education politics in Texas, where the Legislature passed a bill to allow unlicensed chaplains to act as school counselors and where efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in public education are met with profound hostility by lawmakers.  

If the governor and education commissioner truly wanted to dispel any concerns about the intent of this new curriculum, they could have contracted with a more appropriately diverse set of vendors, inviting organizations with strong Texas ties such as the Urban Institute to provide materials and feedback.  

“Look, there’s nothing wrong with classical education as a concept nor is there anything wrong with learning about religion and its impact on society. It is impossible to teach history without understanding the impact of religion on historical figures such as Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr., for that matter,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “There is something wrong, though, with using ‘classical education’ as a cover for the creep of Christian Nationalist philosophy into our classrooms.     

“We’ve long fought for the funding and resources necessary to help our students think critically and see connections, not only between school subjects but also world events and diverse cultures. Shoehorning biblical references into curriculum isn’t the way to do that, and anyone born before last year ought to be able to see that. You can’t just ignore that the players involved in revising these incentivized materials are the same ones smearing public education and attempting to dismantle it through an unending voucher push. Come on now.” 

Read the full story from The 74.  


The Texas American Federation of Teachers represents 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.