AUSTIN, Texas — Texas education leaders are refuting claims by PragerU that the organization is bringing its PragerU Kids curriculum to Texas.
Tuesday, PragerU announced it is now "an approved education vendor in the state of Texas." PragerU, founded by conservative host Dennis Prager, describes itself as "a free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education."
"We are definitely ready to welcome PragerU into the great state of Texas," said Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) Member District 7 representative Julie Pickren in the video announcement featuring PragerU's CEO.
Pickren then explained a new statute adopted by the Texas Legislature this year.
"Texas is now going to develop, write and publish our own core knowledge curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade," Pickren explained. "This is going to be brand new for the state and we will officially have Texas curriculum."
PragerU CEO Marissa Streit responded, saying her team has been working closely with Texas on its core curriculum program.
"We're going to create the supplementary lesson plan so that teachers who use the core knowledge curriculum can use PragerU videos, books and magazines and all this stuff that we make here," said Streit.
On June 13, the legislature passed HB 1605, which "allows the TEA to create an open-resource instructional material program that districts may use," according to the Texas Association of School Boards. Essentially, the state will create and approve materials, which can then be used by districts if they so choose.
However, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency said in a statement to KHOU 11 that "PragerU has not gone through any SBOE or TEA approval process."
The chair of the State board of Education also released a statement explaining that he has "no knowledge of Prager U submitting any instructional material for approval to the SBOE in the past" and that he knows "Prager U has not submitted any instructional materials to the SBOE under the new Instructional Material review process that was adopted by the legislature this year."
According to the Texas Comptroller's Office, PragerU did register on its Centralized Master Bidders List.
"That does not signify any approval other than the entity paid its fee and is registered to seek business opportunities from state agencies," the agency said in a statement to KHOU 11. "The CMBL is an online directory of vendors registered to receive bidding opportunities from state purchasing entities. Though we maintain the list, we do not endorse, recommend or attest to the capabilities of any business or individual listed on the CMBL."
In July, Florida's Department of Education approved content from PragerU to be shown in schools. Its materials on slavery and social justice have already sparked backlash.
Full statement from the Texas Education Agency:
"The State Board of Education has authority under new statute to review and approve commercially available instructional material, such as those sold by PragerU. We welcome all publishers to participate in the SBOE's review and approval process. Texas also has been developing and piloting a state-owned set of instructional materials in a few grades and subjects, as open education resources. More information on that can be found here: https://tea.texas.gov/academics/instructional-materials/tea-available-materials/tea-available-instructional-materials
Under new statute, the State Board of Education has ultimate approval on those resources once they are ready for full release. As part of the development process, TEA has issued competitive RFPs, and will continue to do so, for vendors who can provide content, write, or edit those materials. We welcome individuals and publishers with expertise to respond to those RFPs directly, or otherwise partner with other vendors engaged in that work."
Full statement from SBOE Chair Keven Ellis:
"I have received many questions today about Prager U working with Texas on a Core Knowledge curriculum. I have no knowledge of Prager U submitting any instructional material for approval to the SBOE in the past, and specifically I know that Prager U has not submitted any instructional materials to the SBOE under the new Instructional Material review process that was adopted by the legislature this year. Additionally, no one from Prager U has presented to the State Board of Education or has contacted me, as Chair of the State Board of Education, to discuss any working relationship."
We've reached out to PragerU and Pickren for comment. As of this posting, we've not heard back.