Pearland education board member claims controversial curriculum is TX-approved, TEA says it's not

Lileana Pearson Image
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Texas ed board member claims controversial curriculum state-approved
A top Texas education board member engaged in a video with a PragerU exec is raising questions about her claims that curriculum that may include downplayed slavery lessons is state-approved.

A video circulating online shows State Board of Education member Julie Pickren and PragerU CEO Marissa Streit announcing PragerU Kids is now an approved education vendor for Texas.

PragerU is a controversial K-12 educational resource website that first made major headlines several weeks ago when Florida approved using their materials in the classroom.

Materials are controversial for, among many things, downplaying the role of slavery and racism in America.

But, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and State Board of Education said it has never received any material from PragerU for review and, therefore, has not approved or disapproved of their material. No one seems to know where this "approval" came from.

In a four-minute long video, PragerU CEO Marissa Streit and Texas State Board of Education member Julie Pickren share their excitement, saying PragerU Kids is now a Texas-approved education vendor.

PragerU Kids fell under scrutiny for clips from their children's educational material where a cartoon of Christopher Columbus said slavery wasn't an issue at the time because everyone was doing it.

"Slavery is as old as time and has taken place in every corner of the world, even amongst the people I just left. Being taken as a slave is better than being killed," cartoon Columbus said. "I don't see the problem."

Another video titled "How to embrace your masculinity?" says, "It took masculinity to defeat Nazi Germany. It took masculinity to mine coal and keep Americans warm. And it takes masculinity to keep a strong family and country today."

ABC13 reached out to the TEA about the decision to approve the educational material for the classroom but was told PragerU never submitted materials for review, and therefore the TEA has not approved or disapproved of the material for state use.

The TEA sent Eyewitness News the following statement:

"The State Board of Education has authority under the new statute to review and approve commercially available instructional material, such as those sold by PragerU. We welcome all publishers to participate in the SBOE's review and approval process. Texas also has been developing and piloting a state-owned set of instructional materials in a few grades and subjects, as open education resources. More information on that can be found here. Under the new statute, the State Board of Education has ultimate approval on those resources once they are ready for full release. As part of the development process, TEA has issued competitive RFPs, and will continue to do so, for vendors who can provide content, write, or edit those materials. We welcome individuals and publishers with expertise to respond to those RFPs directly, or otherwise partner with other vendors engaged in that work."

State Board of Education member Pickren, who represents District 7 and lives in Pearland, could not be reached for further explanation on the announcement.

"I have received many questions today about Prager U working with Texas on a Core Knowledge curriculum. I have no knowledge of PragerU submitting any instructional material for approval to the SBOE in the past, and specifically, I know that PragerU has not submitted any instructional materials to the SBOE under the new Instructional Material review process that was adopted by the legislature this year. Additionally, no one from PragerU has presented to the State Board of Education or has contacted me, as chair of the State Board of Education, to discuss any working relationship," Kevin Ellis, the State Board of Education chair, told ABC13.

Eyewitness News asked PragerU to clarify the announcement, and it sent ABC13 the following statement:

"We provide supplementary, educational materials that teachers have the option to use. It is up to the schools and school districts if they use them. Just like school districts in Texas are able to use Scholastic, they can now use PragerU Kids materials."

ABC13 is continuing to work on where this claimed approval came from and if there is the possibility of seeing PragerU materials in your child's classroom.

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