At the special called meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE) on Dec. 13, the board discussion focused on HB 1605 requirements, specifically instructional materials review rules, processes, and rubrics, as well as the library collection development policy required by HB 900.
The quality review rubrics are still under public comment (see instructions to submit by Dec. 15 here), but TEA staff shared the outcomes of stakeholder meetings and the direction of continuing revisions. As a reminder, the SBOE will look first at K-5 English and Spanish language arts and reading (ELAR/SLAR), as well as K-12 mathematics. Based on feedback, TEA staff will be working to reduce the length and redundancy in the rubrics, primarily in ELAR and SLAR. The goal will be to have the SBOE give final approval of these rubrics at its January meeting.
At the SBOE’s November meeting, Chairman Ellis announced his intention to base the suitability rubric in existing law and rule, like the prohibition of Common Core curriculum. The draft rubric also accounts for prohibited topics and subjects (SB 3 (87th, 2nd)), parental rights and responsibilities, and obscene or harmful material as outlined in statute. The rubric also references limitations on human sexuality instruction in law and in the health TEKS. Led by its Democrats, the board added clarifying language to preserve the ability to discuss historic references to peaceful protest and boycotts. Conservatives on the board were successful in adding guidance that any state-approved materials must not promote abortion as a pregnancy option.
Ellis will continue to work on the presentation of the rubric for the January meeting, but the intent is that future reviewers will flag materials that may not meet the criteria of the suitability rubric for further review by the SBOE.
It is critical to note that these rubrics are only applicable to the board’s new instructional materials review and adoption (IMRA) process, and districts will retain full authority to determine which materials will best meet their students’ needs, regardless of whether they have been adopted by the SBOE.
The board also took up the approval of the Texas State Library and Archive Commission’s collection development policy to align with HB 900. Even though the law is still making its way through the legal system, administrative work related to the bill (like this policy) is being allowed to proceed. The board heard testimony primarily in support of the TSLAC standards.
While Texas AFT remains opposed to HB 900, we expressed general support for these standards because the policy focuses on libraries as a place to foster students’ academic and social development under the guidance of an appropriately certified school librarian. Collection development policies and procedures should be carried out by professional library staff trained in those standards and who are responsible for the selection, acquisition, and revision of library materials.
The policy also clearly states that books cannot be removed due to the ideas contained in the books or due to the attributes of an author or character in the book. These standards were adopted as written; we will have to wait to see what the 5th Circuit Court determines regarding HB 900.
In addition to the above, the board had protracted discussions on the discussion of its new rules related to the review and adoption process, including the nitty gritty of the process itself. Many amendments were added to these documents going up for public review. We will cover these changes in a January edition of the Hotline before the next SBOE meeting.