Curriculum

Publisher Challenges Dallas Textbook-Adoption Process

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — May 07, 1997 3 min read

A battle is raging in Dallas over which social studies textbooks should be used in the district’s classrooms next year. But unlike most such disputes that have cropped up around the country, it is not parents, teachers, or historians who are challenging the school board’s decision. Instead, a publisher is fighting the board’s textbook-adoption process, which has omitted some of the company’s products from the list of approved instructional materials.

Harcourt Brace & Co. won a temporary injunction from a state court last month to postpone the district’s purchase of English-language social studies textbooks.

The Orlando, Fla.-based publisher filed a lawsuit after last month’s school board meeting, charging that the board violated district policy when it failed to follow the recommendations of its textbook committee, a board-appointed group of four administrators and 12 teachers. A court hearing on the matter was scheduled for this week.

“The rules of the game were set out at the beginning of the process for the textbook adoption, and under those rules, our texts were selected,” said Jim Harris, a lawyer with Thompson & Knight, a Dallas law firm representing Harcourt Brace. “At the end, the school board changed the rules,” Mr. Harris said. “We think there is something fundamentally wrong with that.”

Publishers are eager to gain thelucrative Texas market. The state has allocated $181 million for the new instructional materials; the 140,000-student Dallas district will spend $6.2 million.

Internal Dispute

A majority of board members were dissatisfied with the committee’s list of recommended texts, all of which are published by Harcourt Brace. They twice asked the committee to make further recommendations. When the committee continued to stand by its original recommendations, the board voted 4-3 on an alternative list--one dominated by the Harcourt Brace texts, but which also included those of three other publishers.

“We felt some of the other materials were more challenging than Harcourt Brace’s,” said Yvonne Ewell, a longtime board member.

Ms. Ewell, who is African-American, also cited an insufficient multicultural focus in the texts. The board has a long history of racial division, and it was its minority members who voted to break from the committee’s recommendations. Moreover, she said that the textbook committee had not evaluated thoroughly all the texts in order for the board to make an informed decision.

Yet, the district’s multicultural coordinator had, indeed, found that the texts met the district’s standards. In addition, the board had earlier followed the committee’s recommendations in approving the Harcourt Brace Spanish-language social studies texts for all grades.

Ms. Ewell said that if anyone violated the policy, it was the textbook committee, which she says refused to recommend additional offerings as the board requested.

In the lawsuit, Harcourt Brace claims that the board cannot change its policy until a public hearing is held and a vote is taken.

Board member Lynda McDow said the break from policy surprised her."I think it was one of the strangest things I’ve seen in the three years since I’ve been on the board,” said Ms. McDow, who voted against the alternate list. “I asked, ‘Is this making new policy as you go?’” she said. “I’m still somewhat confused. We are so policy driven, yet this vote was very different from any I’d seen before.”

Also in question is whether Ms. Ewell should have voted at all after disclosing that the wife of her campaign manager is a representative of Macmillan/McGraw-Hill publishers, one of those added to the alternate list and a popular selection among districts throughout the state.

And another member, who could have swayed the vote in favor of the committee’s original list, was not permitted by state statute to vote after participating in the meeting by telephone.

Those factors could have changed the outcome, Mr. Harris argued."The outcome was dependent upon two votes, one which should not have been cast and another that should have been cast,” he said. “It could have been 4 to 3 to adopt the board’s recommendation.”

Related Tags:

Events

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Opinion Eight Ways to Teach With Primary Sources
Four educators share ways they use primary sources with students, including a strategy called "Zoom."
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Curriculum The Dr. Seuss Controversy: What Educators Need to Know
The business that manages Dr. Seuss' work and legacy will cease publishing six books due to racist stereotypes and offensive content.
5 min read
A copy of the book "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair on March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator's legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children's titles including "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" and "If I Ran the Zoo," because of insensitive and racist imagery.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would cease publication of several of the author's children's titles because of insensitive and racist imagery.
Steven Senne/AP
Curriculum Opinion The Overlooked Support Teachers Are Missing: A Coherent Curriculum
Here’s the research on how districts can improve instructional systems—which was already a challenge in the best of times.
Morgan Polikoff, Elaine Wang & Julia Kaufman
5 min read
A team of people work together to build a block structure.
Imam Fathoni/iStock<br/>
Curriculum Leader To Learn From Taking an Unapologetic Approach to Curriculum Overhaul
An academic leader at a charter school has overhauled curriculum—and proved that instructional rigor and anti-racism can co-exist.
11 min read
Danielle Kelsick, Chief Academic Officer for the Environmental Charter Schools in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Danielle Kelsick, Chief Academic Officer for the Environmental Charter Schools in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Nick Agro for Education Week