Release of HB 1605 Instructional Materials Launches Fresh Concerns, of Biblical Proportions 

Regular Hotline readers know of our antipathy toward House Bill (HB) 1605, the sweeping instructional materials bill from the 88th legislative session. We have written extensively on this bill as HB 1605 has made its way through the rulemaking process.

To quickly recap, the SBOE spent the latter half of 2023 working to determine the criteria of the quality and suitability rubrics required in the bill. These rubrics were adopted in February 2024 and publishers began submitting English and Spanish language arts and mathematics materials for review. The Texas Education Agency has hired and trained quality reviewers for this first round of HB 1605 instructional materials review and adoption (IMRA), and TEA published all submissions for the SBOE’s review as anticipated Wednesday. 

What was not anticipated: the agency-developed materials that were created for submission contain a yet unknown number of religious references that, however intentionally or unintentionally, blur the separation of church and state in favor of a Christian worldview. Almost immediately after announcing that the publisher submissions were available for view, education news outlet The 74 dropped an exclusive article citing the infusion of many biblical references and readings into the agency’s Open Education Resources (OER) materials for K-5 English language arts.  

The 74 article identifies Hillsdale College (producer of the 1776 Curriculum) and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), both right-wing organizations, as subcontractors for developing this content. While there is a legitimate claim that understanding some measure of Bible literature is needed for deeper understanding of much of the Western European canon of art, literature, and governance, there should be a bright line between an explanation of these references and required reading of the Book of Matthew as one grade 5 lesson on Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper does.

A full analysis of the extent of these references is underway, and we will report on these findings and ways for our members to comment on these materials in a future edition of the Hotline. 

“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 in a statement. “There is something wrong, though, with using ‘classical education’ as a cover for the creep of Christian Nationalist philosophy into our classrooms.”      

In what can only be described as damage control, a series of planned responses trickled out over the course of the day Wednesday. First, Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in, saying these HB 1605 materials “will bring students back to the basics of education … [and] allow our students to better understand the connection of history, art, community, literature, and religion on pivotal events.”  

It is essential to note that this bill was heavily marketed during the legislative session as a solution to help overworked teachers save time by providing access to “high-quality instructional materials,” but Abbott’s statement subtly highlights the potential role of state-developed curriculum as a tool in the manufactured culture war against the “indoctrination” of Texas school children. “Back to the basics of education” is a turn of phrase often used by pro-voucher, dark-money groups that heavily fund both legislative and SBOE races.