House Bill 1804 would allow the 15-member State Board of Education to reject textbooks for students below ninth grade if they contain content on sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual activity. Textbooks could also be rejected if they fail to accurately present U.S. history or if they "encourage lifestyles that deviate from generally accepted standards of society."
Freshman state Rep. Terri Leo-Wilson, (R-Galveston), who authored the measure, says it is about empowering parents and their "elected voices" rather than textbook publishers. Mary Elizabeth Castle, director of government relations for Texas Values, notes that it would restore the authority the board formerly had.
"These parameters are simply putting back in place former law that was in place before 2011," she reports. "These provisions were in place before, and then the legislature decided they didn't want them, so it's really just instituting what we had several years ago."
In addition to restricting certain types of materials, Texas Values is also advocating for the school board's authority to choose certain textbooks.
"We need both pieces in order to make sure that we have good textbooks for all school districts and that districts aren't choosing their own," Castle continues.
Other legislation concerning the books kids can access includes Senate Bill 13, which aims to keep sexually explicit material off school library shelves and has already passed in the Senate. In the House, members have passed House Bill 900, which would also take sexually explicit books off school library shelves and would require that some books with sexual references get parental consent before a student can check them out.
Those efforts differ from the latest proposal in that they deal with optional reading materials. House Bill 1804 might be the first to focus on textbooks that teachers use for their lessons.
Those on the Left, including the Texas Freedom Network and Equality Texas, are adamantly opposed to the bill. They call it an expansion of the Right's "war on books."