Texas education board rejects climate change lessons in textbooks

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The State Board of Education on Wednesday gave an initial rejection to some science textbooks after concerns over their lessons on climate change.

Members of the 15-seat education policy committee voted on party lines to withhold approval from numerous textbooks that recognize fossil fuels as a cause of manmade climate change.

Among the rejections were publisher Green Ninja’s middle school science textbooks, which provides exercises that direct students to write about the future changes to weather and climate. Another publisher, EduSmart, was struck from the list for depictions that one board member worried cast the oil and gas industry in a “negative light.”

“There’s an overemphasis on the evils of oil and gas and virtues of renewables,” District 15 board member Aaron Kinsey said of another textbook. Kinsey is a Midland Republican and CEO of the oilfield services company American Patrols, which contracts with oil and gas companies to provide aerial surveys.

“I just think this Accelerate learning curriculum does a disservice to our students because it only only presents one side,” Pearland board member Julie Pickren said of another publisher. “A general theme throughout their entire science curriculum is that climate change is manmade. There’s no discussion or presenting different theories.”

Experts agree — there is not another side to the science.

“This is not something that’s debated in the scientific realm at all, it’s just something that’s controversial in the political realm,” KXAN Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans said. “Teaching climate change to kids is the same as teaching them about gravity or addition and subtraction. These are settled scientific facts. It’s not being ‘anti’ anything.”

Democrat Aicha Davis worries the board is protecting the image of the oil and gas industry at the expense of objectivity.

“Do you want pictures of children in oil fields?,” Davis rhetorically asked the board on Wednesday. “We literally had that discussion on making sure oil and gas is always seen positively… we want to give students information, we want to give them knowledge… we want them to know how to keep our earth here.”

Publishers can now amend the language of their material to try and secure approval in a final vote on Friday. School districts are not required to use the materials approved by the board, but the board’s selections have a heavy influence on curriculum both around the state and across the country.

As Davis explains, publishers cater to Texas’ requirements because of the state’s large market of millions of students. Because of the higher cost associated with printing multiple versions of textbooks, other states often end up with the version Texas prefers.

“We have to make sure we have really good standards and really good textbooks here in Texas. It does influence what other states are going to get as well,” Davis said.