A Radical Rewrite of Texas’ Instructional Materials Laws Threatens to Dismantle the K-12 Market

Piece of paper with HQIM legislation on it and a gavel in front of it

If you care about instructional materials, you need to know about legislation that is sailing through the Texas legislature: House Bill 1605 (Buckley) and its identical companion Senate Bill 2565 (Creighton). The legislation would implement significant changes in how instructional materials are selected and used in Texas classrooms.

Why should you care? California, Texas, New York, and Florida have long been bellwether states in the K-12 publishing market. Additionally, Texas is a member of the High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Development (HQIMPD) network, a 13-state network led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in Washington, DC, which advocates for greater state control over the adoption and use of high-quality instructional materials (i.e., the Louisiana Believes model). For both of these reasons, these bills are likely to have national reverberations.

The legislation would implement many of the state-control reforms advocated by CCSSO through the HQIMPD network, as summarized below.

The State identifies high-quality instructional materials (HQIMs) for districts to adopt

The legislation shifts authority over the state instructional materials review process from the elected State Board of Education (SBOE) to the governor-appointed commissioner of education. The commissioner would be required to design a new state instructional materials review process under his control, select the materials that will be reviewed each year, and maintain a public website to house those reviews. The legislation authorizes the SBOE to approve the commissioner’s new review process and to approve or reject each reviewed material.

Additionally, the legislation requires the commissioner to purchase Open Education Resources (OERs) for specified subjects and grade levels and authorizes him to purchase other instructional materials and technology for all districts to use.

To provide public information about the quality of the materials districts are using, publishers of state-approved materials would be required to provide an instructional materials portal where parents could access those materials. Districts would be required to make all teaching materials available for parent review beginning one month before and extending one month after the school year. Parents would also be able to request an external review of the instructional resources their children’s teachers are using. Districts would be required to annually report information about all of their instructional materials to the Texas Education Agency.

The State incentivizes districts to adopt HQIMs

The SBOE would maintain a list of state-approved and rejected materials. It is likely that a limited number of materials will be deemed high-quality and approved for each subject area and grade band, as has been the result in Louisiana. For example, for science, Louisiana has only two state-approved Tier 1 elementary and middle school materials and one additional state-approved material for sixth grade.

Furthermore, although the legislation states that districts cannot be required to use commissioner-selected OERs, the bill’s $843 M fiscal note would be paid for out of the state Instructional Materials and Technology fund, leaving little in that fund to disperse to districts for local purchases of instructional materials. The legislation allocates a one-time, $40 per student allotment in the Foundation School Program for purchases of state-approved materials across all subjects as well as an annual $20 per student allotment to cover OER printing costs. By depleting districts’ funding for instructional materials, the legislation will, in fact, force districts to use the commissioner’s OERs.

The State incentivizes teachers to use high-quality instructional materials

The legislation prohibits school districts from requiring teachers to develop unit/lesson plans, create resources or select instructional materials unless those duties are specified in the teacher’s contract. It also extends liability protections to teachers who use SBOE-approved materials as designed. Thus, in order to take advantage of that immunity, teachers would have to follow the material’s scope and sequence and lesson plans without supplementation.

The State provides professional learning aligned to HQIMs

The bills authorize the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to provide support for districts’ adoption, selection, and use of instructional materials. TEA is also required to create an OER support program to assist districts and charter schools in using OERs and creating class schedules that allow sufficient time for teacher planning and preparation within the workday.

The State engages educator preparation programs

The legislation requires pre-service teachers to demonstrate a thorough understanding and competence in using the state-approved OERs in order to earn a teaching certificate.

This summary reflects the committee substitutes of HB 1605 and SB 2565. As explained, the legislation would significantly expand the commissioner of education’s control while restricting the SBOE’s authority over the selection of instructional materials for Texas public schools. It would empower parents to review teachers’ materials. It would diminish school districts’ capacity to locally select instructional materials and limit teachers’ autonomy to select resources for their lessons. It would also reshape the K-12 market for publishers. Similar bills are likely to appear in other HQIMPD states.

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