Local education leaders weigh in on controversial textbook

Critics say a proposed Mexican-American history book is offensive. Now the public gets to weigh in.

Local members of the State Board of Education weighed in Monday on a controversial Mexican-American studies textbook up for a public hearing on Tuesday, while explaining how the book has continued to move closer toward a final vote, despite an uproar.

The textbook, “Mexican American Heritage,” is the one and only book publishers submitted for consideration after the State Board of Education put out a call for textbooks in April 2015, something board member and former chair Barbara Cargill, a science educator from The Woodlands, said left her “surprised” and “disappointed.”

More than 20 groups have called on the state to reject the textbook, calling it “demeaning” and “insulting,” full of factual errors and offensive stereotypes.

Lawrence Allen, Jr., a state board of education member and longtime educator from the Houston area, says he expects to see a list with around 600 concerns at a public hearing on the book Tuesday in Austin.

Allen says the Texas Education Agency first looks at any potential textbook to make sure it lines up with the state’s curriculum requirements. Allen says all books must cover at least 50 percent of those requirements, and that in this case, “Mexican American Heritage” covers 100 percent.  Once that happens, Allen says the textbook then comes before the state board, whose members then look for factual errors.

MORE: Committee denounces proposed Mexican-American studies textbook

“That’s what we’ll be addressing tomorrow is whether this is one that should be placed on the conforming book list,” said Allen. “It’s just so much easier for that book to come through the state system so that we already are aware at the school systems that this book has been vetted out by our state board and our TEA representatives.”

Allen says if the board finds the book isn’t factually correct, they’ll give the publisher a chance to make corrections before a final vote in November.

Allen says he’s waiting to read the book until he gets feedback on the errors during the upcoming hearings.

Cargill says she needs to read the book in more detail, but based on the quotes she’s seen she thinks the publisher will need to make corrections.

School districts don’t have to use whatever book the board eventually adopts, but they do have to prove their materials meet the state’s curriculum requirements.

We reached out to Donna Bahorich, the current chair of the state board of education, for comment on Monday morning but we have not heard back.

The Houston Independent School District is one of only eight districts statewide to offer a Mexican-American studies elective course, which is available to students at five high schools. HISD spokesperson Lila Hollin says the district currently has no plans to adopt the controversial textbook.

To see samples of the proposed textbook, click here.


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