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State School Board Won't Change Bible Textbook Approval

By Associated Press

Montgomery AL – Members of the state board of education decided Thursday that they wouldn't fight among themselves or change their unwitting approval of a Bible literacy book that caused division among legislators.

The board left intact its Oct. 11 approval of a list of more than 2,500 textbooks that local systems can purchase with state funds, including "The Bible and Its Influence," a Bible literacy textbook that legislators had disagreements over two years.

Most board members said they weren't aware it was on the list until after news of the vote was spread by The Bible Literacy Project, a Front Royal, Va.-based organization that developed the book and lauded Alabama for designating their publication "as a comprehensive literature curriculum for the state."

Some board members said Thursday that while they wished they had been alerted to the book's inclusion on the list before their vote, they didn't want to revisit it.

"I don't have any serious problems with the book," Republican Randy McKinney of Gulf Shores said after the board's work session.

"I do think the company gave themselves a sales-job spin. They used the vote in a way that wasn't intended by the school board," he said. "Do I have some disagreements with some areas of the book? Yes. But out of 2,500 books, I'm sure I have disagreements with many of them."

The book is already being taught at 163 schools in 35 states but Alabama is the first to allow state funds to be used for it instead of just local money, according to The Bible Literacy Project.

State Superintendent Joe Morton suggested inviting publishers of similar textbooks to submit bids for possible approval. He recommended the board not reconsider its vote or prolong the issue while Alabama "is in the midst of the best academic and educational news we've ever had."

"I don't want to change that spotlight," he said.

The book covers the Bible's contents and its influence on cultures, history, literature and the arts. Alabama House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, first introduced legislation to use the textbook in a Bible class in 2005, then brought an amended bill in 2006. It failed both times amid debates over the book's content, whether it should be made mandatory and whether the Legislature should defer to the school board on the matter.

Shelia Weber, spokeswoman for the literacy project, said that's why the group decided to submit the book to the 23-member state textbook committee, which reviews books and recommends them for approval.

"We went through exactly the process legislators were saying it should have gone," she said. "There certainly was not anything backdoor about it. And, like some board members said, we had many opportunities for the general public and the board to comment on the book."

It takes at least eight months for books to be adopted by the state, including bids being accepted and approved by the committee, book lists offered for discussion at public hearings, and the list being voted on by the board.

Even after winning the state board's approval, books must still be approved at the local level.

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