Public input sought on TEA's proposed curriculum that includes… | TCTA
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Public input sought on TEA's proposed curriculum that includes religious content

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The Texas Education Agency recently released thousands of pages of instructional materials in a proposed elementary school curriculum that drew immediate criticism from some school officials for infusing religion — particularly Christianity — into public schools. If the State Board of Education adopts the curriculum, school districts that use it could get an additional $60 per student in state funding.

TEA released the materials as part of implementing House Bill 1605, which passed in 2023. Part of the bill directed TEA to develop state-owned instructional materials for districts to use. TEA has proposed two sets of Texas Open Education Resources textbooks:  

  • OER K-5 Reading & Language Arts: According to TEA, these materials were built to cover the English Reading and Language Arts TEKS, and weave together elements of the science of reading with a cross-curricular knowledge building approach consistent with a classical education model that is focused on the fundamentals. Students will be immersed in classic literature along with reading lessons about art, history, culture, science, and technology. 
  • OER K-8/Algebra Mathematics: Per TEA, these are a comprehensive and clearly sequenced suite of materials that provide teachers with the knowledge and tools outlined in the Math TEKS. TEA states that these instructional materials are built on basic scientific insights about how people learn math, grown out of cognitive and developmental sciences, and that with OER Math textbooks, students will learn the fundamentals to build a strong foundation in mathematics, mastering arithmetic and memorizing math facts while steadily building their mathematical reasoning skills.  

In a news release, Education Commissioner Mike Morath said, “These new Texas OER textbooks represent a significant step forward in our state’s commitment to providing exceptional instructional materials for Texas students and teachers. Now with the SBOE and public review process beginning, we can use additional feedback to make the materials even better this year.”  

The materials, which feature Christian references throughout the kindergarten through fifth grade lessons, have drawn concern from some school district officials who say the materials raise questions about church-state separation.

“The law is clear cut to us — you don’t teach your students a particular religion,” Stan Surratt, superintendent of Lindale ISD told The Texas Tribune. “You can talk about different religions, but we don’t teach Christianity to our students.”

References include the parable of the good Samaritan in a social studies unit and the teaching of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in a kindergarten unit about fairy tales and folktales.

Public schools are legally prohibited from promoting particular religious beliefs. In Texas, some public schools teach world religions to high school students, and some offer a Bible elective class in high schools. Elementary school students are not usually taught religion.

Michael Lee, superintendent of Booker ISD, told The Texas Tribune his students already perform well under their current curriculum, but added that the possibility of an additional $60 per student is enticing. “We will certainly look at the curriculum,” Lee said. “We will look at any area to find a dollar.”

The State Board of Education is accepting public comment on the new instructional materials through Aug. 16. It also will hold public hearings at the June 25-28 and Sept. 10-13 meetings to gather testimony about the instructional materials before an expected vote on the proposed curriculum at its November meeting. Click here to review the materials and submit comments.