AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Board of Education used a late-night meeting to preliminarily approve new science textbooks for classrooms across the state Thursday, but it blocked signing off on a major new biology text until alleged "errors" in lessons over the theory of evolution are checked by outside experts.
The vote just before midnight did not reject the biology book by Pearson, one of the country's largest publishers. But it delayed approval until three board members appoint a trio of outside experts to check concerns.
Textbook and classroom curriculum battles have long raged in Texas pitting creationists — those who see God's hand in the creation of the universe — against academics who worry about religious and political ideology trumping scientific fact. At issue this time are proposed high school biology books that could be used across the state at least through 2022.
State law approved two years ago means school districts can now choose their own books and don't have to adhere to a list recommended by the Board of Education — but most have continued to use approved books.
The issue is important nationally since Texas is so large that many books prepared for publication in the state also are marketed elsewhere around the country.
Publishers from around the country submitted proposed textbooks this summer, but committees of Texas volunteer reviewers — some nominated by socially conservative current and former Board of Education members — raised objections. One argued that creationism based on biblical texts should be taught in science classes, while others objected that climate change wasn't as settled a scientific matter as some of the proposed books said.
Pearson and many other major publishers weren't willing to make suggested major edits and changes, however.
That promoted some of the board's socially conservative members to call for delaying approval of the book because of concerns including how long it took Earth to cool and objection to lessons about natural selection because "selection operates as a selective but not a creative force."
Members outside the socially conservative bloc claimed their colleagues waited until the dead of night to try and impose ideological edits.
"To ask me — a business degree major from Texas Tech University — to distinguish whether the Earth cooled 4 billion years ago or 4.2 billion years ago for purposes of approving a textbook at 10:15 on a Thursday night is laughable," said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant.
He added: "I believe this process is being hijacked, this book is being held hostage to make political changes."
Parents in the De Soto School District are being warned about an outbreak of scabies.
District 73 officials sent a letter home with students Thursday notifying parents that one high school student, a junior high student, and an elementary student have been sent home with the skin condition.
Scabies is caused by tiny mites burrowing beneath the skin. It's extremely itchy and highly contagious.
District officials say they are taking steps to disinfect schools.
Students with scabies can't return to school without a doctor's note.
De Soto is about 50 miles south of St. Louis in Jefferson County.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A group of Missouri school superintendents has developed an alternative to a state law allowing students to transfer from unaccredited to accredited districts.
The Kansas City Star reports that under the plan, students in struggling districts could transfer to better-performing schools in their home districts. And after five years of failure, districts could be dissolved and distributed to accredited districts.
Twenty leaders from around Missouri drafted the school-improvement plan and provided it to The Star on Monday. The draft says the existing transfer law "is not in the best interest of all students and will not lead to improvement of unaccredited districts."
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro hasn't yet had a chance to review the proposal.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - After years of talking about less spending, some Missouri officials now are talking about more.
Gov. Jay Nixon suggested recently that he would like to spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars on public schools before his term ends in three years.
There may also be more money available for other programs in the next budget year.
State departments already have turned in proposed budgets for the fiscal year that starts next July. And advocates for various social services have started making funding pitches to lawmakers.
Nixon's budget director, Linda Luebbering, says revenues are looking better and there could be room to fund a few more things.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream also says funding increases are possible for some programs.
Normandy Schools Superintendent Ty McNichols will outline proposed budget cuts at Thursday night's school board meeting. But Wednesday, district officials briefed employees about the plan as the struggling district tries to cover transfer costs for hundreds of students.
Teachers learned yesterday that 103 of the district's 650 employees will lose their jobs by the end of December. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that layoff notices will go out next month.
District officials say class sizes could go as high as 29 students and Bel-Nor Elementary School is expected to close.
The district is projecting a $6.8 million shortfall this school year because of the added cost of the state mandated school transfer program.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says he plans a "significant down payment" toward his goal of fully funding the state's school funding formula.
The Democratic governor told a gathering of public school leaders Wednesday he's working to fund the K-12 school formula by the time he leaves office in January 2017.
The current year's budget provides almost $3.1 billion in basic aid to elementary and secondary schools. State officials project the current funding level would be $556 million short of the target for next year's budget.
Nixon also said he wants to expand access to early childhood education and will continue implementing accountability measures such as the Common Core education standards.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says he is working toward full funding for public schools by the time he leaves office in January 2017.
This year's budget includes has about $3 billion for elementary and secondary schools. But that's roughly $600 million less than what is called for under Missouri's school funding formula for this year.
The amounts prescribed by the formula change yearly. If schools receive all of the funds in this year's budget, Missouri would have to spend an additional $560 million to meet next year's target.
Nixon addressed the issue in a speech Monday to higher education officials. He won a second term as governor last year and is barred by law from seeking a third term.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The 16 year old Pakistani teen targeted for a Taliban assassination because she championed education for girls has inspired the development of a school curriculum encouraging advocacy.
George Washington University announced Monday that faculty members are creating multimedia curriculum tools to accompany a book recently released by the teen, Malala Yousafzai. Several faculty members will pilot the curriculum early next year for both college and high school instruction. Free of charge, it will focus on themes such as the importance of a woman's voice and political extremism, the university said.
The tools won't just look at the teen's story, but also how the same issues get reflected elsewhere, such as when girls face child marriage and pressures to leave school, said Mary Ellsberg, the director of the university's Global Women's Institute.
"It's going to be really interactive and really encourage students to do ... activities outside of school, it will encourage them to get engaged in the communities and as well to help the Malala Fund directly," Ellsberg said.
The university's Global Women's Institute is partnered with the Malala Fund, a nonprofit that seeks to ensure girls around the world have access to education.
In 2012 when a Taliban gunman walked up to a bus taking Malala and other children home from school in Pakistan's volatile northern Swat Valley and shot Malala in the head and neck. Another girl on the bus was also wounded. Malala now resides in Britain, where she was flown for medical care. Her memoir is "I am Malala."
ROLLA, Mo. (AP) - Missouri University of Science and Technology is reporting record enrollment, including record numbers of female and minority students.
The Rolla campus of the University of Missouri system released the figures Wednesday from the first four weeks of the fall semester.
Registrar Deanne Jackson says total enrollment stands at a record 8,130 students, up 6.3 percent from September 2012.
Female enrollment is at an all-time high, with 1,839 women attending. And the number of minority students rose 9.6 percent from last year, to an all-time high of 881.
Under Missouri's new rating system, the St. Louis Public Schools will lose accreditation in two years if things don't improve. And under the state's transfer rules, students who live in unaccredited districts can transfer to schools in better performing districts at the expense of their home district.
The potential transfer crisis losing accreditation could create prompted an unprecedented meeting Tuesday between the elected and appointed city school boards. It's the first time the two school boards have considered joining forces.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the two groups spent two hours discussing one idea: asking the state to grant accreditation status to individual schools rather than entire districts.
Superintendent Kelvin Adams says under that system, almost half of the city's schools would still be unaccredited, but the rest -- 38 of the district's 71 schools -- would receive at least provisional accreditation.
Adams and others argue that means only students in the city's lowest-performing schools would be eligible to transfer and some might choose to go to better performing schools within the district. After all, 20 schools in the city meet state accreditation standards, some with distinction.