Last week, the Texas State Board of Education made significant improvements that allow for more objective teaching on science and the way the world is changing, including climate change.

Unlike TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards, SBOE operating rules are revised every two years, and for instructional materials, they reinforce the selection process schools should abide by.

The first change (2.9.2.A.) already required instructional materials to present “the most current factual information accurately and objectively without editorial opinion or bias by the authors.” Different theories may be presented, but they should be “clearly distinguished from fact and presented in an objective educational manner.”

The new addition adds “materials should focus on scientific processes and recognize the ongoing process of scientific discovery and change over time in the natural world.  This is imperative to ensure that science’s provisional findings are not replaced by ideologies which are unquestionable because they exist beyond the scientific method.

The second change (2.9.2.i.) requires instructional materials to “present positive aspects of the United States and Texas and its heritage and abundant natural resources.” Texas has many abundant resources and has a tremendous impact on our way of life. In 2021, $1.65 billion in public school funding in Texas came from local and state taxes on oil and gas fields, pipelines and gathering plants. That means in nearly twenty percent of our school districts, one out of five local dollars comes from the energy industry.

Additionally, the oil and gas industry directly employs more than 443,000 hardworking Texans in quality, high-paying jobs with an average salary of $115,300. Many of these jobs are available to students through the state energy cluster CTE program. However, 91% of students in Texas do not have access to these programs and out of 355,000 students that graduated from Texas public high schools last year, only 34 graduated with a credential in oil and gas.

With Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs), over 90% of students will have access to a community college within a 30-minute commute. ESAs will allow students to have access to high-quality job training for these high-paying jobs, changing the trajectory of many lives. Furthermore, with instructional materials presenting the positive aspects of Texas’s natural resources, including, but not limited, to the ones above, students can have access to more knowledge about Texas history and the career paths available to them.

The third change (2.9.D.vii.) requires instructional materials to “present factual information, avoid bias, and encourage discussion.” Currently, 20 states have adopted the 2013 national science standards to teach climate change without any consideration of natural climate cycles or the process of scientific discovery. The scientific process requires that after a conclusion is drawn, another question is proposed. The process does not have a finite end.

This year’s changes to SBOE operating rules reinforce the 2021 science TEKS revisions which were updated to include the role Texas is playing in eradicating global energy poverty, an understanding of the carbon cycle, an understanding of the scientific method to include ongoing scientific discovery, and the role of cost benefit analysis.

According to Aaron Kinsey, SBOE Member representing District 15, “This update in the Operating Rules is a victory for all Texans who value our history, economic prowess, and furtherance of the scientific process to the next generation. When combined with the recent TEKS revision, it is a clear message to publishers that Texans understand the value of our natural resources. Texas is and will continue to be a global energy leader. We are ensuring our life-changing natural resources are truthfully portrayed to our children in textbooks.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Life:Powered and Next Generation Texas projects commend the members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) for voting to revise Texas’ operating rules for selection of instructional materials as they relate to good science instruction and the critical role of energy in modern life.