SBOE Preview: New Year, New Chair 

Image reads: Eyes on the Board

Readers of the Hotline will remember that in December, the governor appointed Aaron Kinsey, who represents District 15, as the new State Board of Education (SBOE) chair, replacing Dr. Keven Ellis, who has served as chair since 2019. Next week’s regular meeting of the board will be Kinsey’s first in the driver’s seat, and this appointment has already raised cause for some concern. 

At the November meeting, then-Chairman Ellis announced his intention to bring forward the American Indian/Native Studies for first reading in January. In a disappointing turn, the agenda was published without this anticipated item, leaving advocates surprised and scrambling to understand the reasoning behind the decision. Given that the chair determines the agenda, the question fell to Kinsey who has, so far, not given a satisfactory explanation for its removal. Along with other ethnic studies advocates, we will watch the action in the room closely, hoping for a decision to place this item on the April agenda.  

Also in December at the special called meeting, the board discussed HB 1605 requirements, specifically instructional materials review rules, processes, and rubrics, and the library collection development policy required by HB 900.  

With encouragement from both sides of aisle, the SBOE approved the collection development policy by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and subsequently adopted by that agency. Given last week’s decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a lower court decision to temporarily block the implementation of part of House Bill (HB) 900 by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), the approval of these standards seems doubly victorious.  

While the Texas Education Agency and school districts may continue to enact these standards for reading materials, further clarity will be needed surrounding some of the definitions in the bill. Stay tuned next week for some forthcoming guidance to superintendents and districts.  

Next Week’s Agenda 

Next week, the board is expected to consider public comments and give final approval to the proposed rules related to the Instructional Materials Review and Adoption (IMRA) process. At the December meeting, members made significant changes to the proposed rules, which are available for public comment through Monday at 5 p.m. Most of the changes we are watching are connected to the review process rather than policy. A few of our primary concerns have always been the overall transparency of the process and continued involvement of current practitioners in reviewing instructional materials. We will remain vigilant to last-minute “adjustments” in the process as they move forward in April.  

The SBOE is also expected to give final approval on the quality and suitability rubrics so that TEA can launch the first review under the massively overhauled review and adoption process.  

In addition to the two prominent items above, the SBOE will consider a suite of items related to career and technical education. First, the board will hold a public hearing and consider for first reading proposed revisions to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for courses in the agribusiness, animal science, plant science, and aviation maintenance programs of study, as well as two science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses that may satisfy science graduation requirements.  

Additionally, members will have an opportunity to discuss proposed updates to Texas’s Perkins V State Plan. Proposed updates to the current plan, in effect since 2021-2022 would streamline the Texas State Plan for Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century and provide opportunities to focus resources and technical assistance in response to needs identified through the Career and Technology Education (CTE) program of study refresh process. 

The Committee on Instruction will hear an item related to dyslexia and the implementation of HB 3928 by Steve Toth (R-Spring) and consider adjustments to rules, including the Dyslexia Handbook: Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders (Dyslexia Handbook). The Committee on School Initiatives will hear its standing charter application update, as well as consider for approval a few items from the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). 

If it sounds like a full agenda, it is. We frankly expect all SBOE meetings in 2024 to be as weighty. We will recap this meeting for members in an upcoming Hotline.