News from Barbara!  (Note site is being rebuilt)

August 2015

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It’s hard to believe our students have begun another school year! I know we all appreciate our teachers and administrators for their hard work and dedication as they have prepared for our schoolchildren. I also appreciate all of the parents and other adults who have gotten your children ready for another year of learning!

Governor Abbott made an excellent choice by appointing Donna Bahorich to succeed me as Chair of the State Board of Education (SBOE) on June 18, and I applaud his decision. I was term-limited after two consecutive terms as Chair but will continue to serve on the State Board of Education. Governor Perry appointed me twice as Chair and for that I thank him. It was an honor and I think the board made great strides in serving the schoolchildren of Texas. I wholeheartedly support Donna and look forward to seeing how God uses her in this leadership role!


Same Ol’, Same Ol’

Once again, liberal critics and the media are spreading false statements that our state’s history curriculum standards downplay slavery, overemphasize religion and Moses’ influence in America’s founding, and that Texas doesn’t require students to learn about the Ku Klux Klan or the Jim Crow laws. We’ve heard this before. Such statements not only reflect ignorance about the curriculum standards but also reflect a blatant disrespect for the hard-working review panels, comprised mostly of social studies teachers who diligently reviewed and updated the standards in 2009-2010.

The state curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), provide teachers a framework that tells them what elements to teach, but teachers are free to decide how to present the curriculum. The TEKS are not designed to list everything specifically. On the other hand, as expected, textbooks are very comprehensive and contain detailed subject matter. Both the TEKS and the textbooks undergo separate, rigorous reviews that are overseen by the SBOE. Public input is a critical part of both processes.

Let’s look at the truth about the TEKS. Feel free to take a look for yourself at:


·       First, slavery is not downplayed in the TEKS.

Starting in Grade 3, students are introduced to slavery by learning about the abolitionist movement and the Emancipation Proclamation during Celebrate Freedom Week. The Texas Education Code requires Celebrate Freedom Week in Grades 3-12. In addition, slavery is listed specifically in the TEKS for five different grade levels! Our students most definitely learn about its role in the Civil War.


·       The coverage of Moses and our nation’s religious heritage is accurate in the TEKS.

The TEKS for U.S. Government require the study of individuals including Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu,whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents.” In the World History TEKS, students are expected to “identify the impact of political and legal ideas” contained in documents including the Jewish Ten Commandments, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and more.


One textbook accurately states, “Moses was a lawgiver and a great leader. Like the founders of the United States, he helped establish a legal system to govern his people. The Ten Commandments have been a guide and basis for many legal and moral systems throughout the world.” To naysayers who insist this is a distortion of history, I would point out that Moses, a revered figure in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, is openly honored as a lawgiver in many of our nation’s most public governmental buildings, including the U. S. Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the U. S. Capitol, among many others.   


The textbooks do a fair, balanced job of covering the TEKS about our country’s religious heritage and its influence on our nation's Founders. Publishers responded directly to critics’ concerns. For example in response to a comment about the role of religion on “equality” before the law, Pearson Publishing responded, "We believe that our presentation of the role of religion in favor of the American Revolution is accurate and clear for this grade level. (A reference to support our position is “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic” on the Library of Congress website.)”


I went into greater detail about the coverage of our rich religious heritage in my December 2014 newsletter. (Posted at 


·       The Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws are covered in the TEKS through court cases and historical figures.  

Many of the TEKS reference people or events that will prompt students to learn about other momentous topics in history even if the topic is not specifically listed. For example, Ida B. Wells is in the U.S. History TEKS. She was a founder of the NAACP and a leader in the anti-lynching movement to stop the Ku Klux Klan and other vigilante groups that terrorized African Americans. So while the Ku Klux Klan is not listed specifically in the standards, teachers will certainly teach about it. Another example in this course is the required study of the 13th amendment which outlawed slavery. And while the Jim Crow laws aren't listed in the TEKS, students will learn about them in the landmark 1896 Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson, which is in the TEKS. Also in the TEKS is Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka which overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson case. This is one way that the teacher review panels ensured that students would be encouraged to think critically.


About the textbooks:                                                                                                               This past fall, after months of an extensive review process with input from thousands of people including appointed review panelists (mostly history educators), citizen testifiers, and an influx of emails and phone calls, almost 90 social studies textbooks were approved by the SBOE. The approved instructional materials met the requirement for covering over 50% of the TEKS. (Unfortunately, a change from requiring 100% coverage was made by the legislature in 2011.) Thankfully, many of the textbooks do provide content for 100% of the TEKS, and I encourage school districts to give those textbooks top consideration. The list of SBOE-approved materials can be found at this link:


Final thoughts:

I hope this information helps explain a few things. It is rare for someone, especially liberal organizations and those in the media, to actually look at the textbooks or at the TEKS themselves before making "informed" statements about what is covered or not. What a shame. They might actually learn some history!


*Note: Did you know this? By law, for every student, school districts must provide instructional materials that cover 100% of the TEKS (TEC Section 31.004). So if a textbook only covers 55% of the TEKS, the school district is required to provide additional instructional materials that cover the other 45%. Is your school district doing that? Find out, and get involved!  


In June, while still Chair of the SBOE, I wrote to Texas Attorney General Paxton seeking guidance regarding the adoption and use of instructional materials, specifically textbooks chosen by school districts for TEKS coverage. (Once appointed, Chair Bahorich agreed to keep the request in place.) As stated in my letter to the AG, I sought to identify the extent of the SBOE's rulemaking authority to ensure that, at the local level, appropriate process and safeguards exist with regard to the review and adoption of instructional materials by a public school. Of great concern are the instructional materials that have not been vetted in the SBOE’s review process.

Publishers have always had the option to bypass the SBOE’s rigorous and transparent textbook review process; but if they did, school districts could not use state dollars to purchase them. This changed with the passage of Senate Bill 6 in 2011; school districts may now use state dollars for non-state approved instructional materials. At the local level, there are no required guidelines and no specific “best practices” model; thus, the local textbook review process varies in our 1,000+ school districts. I will point out that many school districts have a good textbook review and selection process place; however, we must ensure that this is true in every district.

Since the passage of SB 6, many of us on the Board have been contacted by concerned parents and teachers with questions such as: What types of textbooks are being sold directly to our schools, bypassing the board’s review process? How are these instructional materials vetted by the districts? Do the textbooks align with the TEKS and provide error-free content? Are districts actively seeking parent review and input? Is there rigor and transparency in the local selection process?

For the sake of our schoolchildren, all textbooks should be held to the same level of accountability as are the SBOE-approved textbooks.

You may see my actual 8.28.15 letter to the Attorney General here. It takes about six months for the AG’s office to release an opinion.

******************************************************************************Thank you for your interest in education issues and for allowing me to serve as your voice in Austin.  Our children are our most precious resource!

For our children,

Barbara Cargill
State Board of Education,,

To help me continue the fight for our children, please donate by going to    Every little bit helps!


Please forward this email to parents, teachers, administrators, and others who have an interest in education.                                                                                                             

                        Pol. Adv. Paid for by Barbara Cargill for SBOE, 61 W. Wedgemere, The Woodlands, TX 77381