The Texas Board of Education has approved tighter rules dictating who can serve on volunteer panels that scrutinize textbooks, a move that could soften ideological fights over what students learn in public schools.
Among the changes approved Friday include a mandate that teachers or professors be given priority for serving on textbook panels for subjects in their areas of expertise.
In past years, some panelists have been social and religious conservatives who raised objections about science texts with extensive lessons on climate change and evolution.
Others suggested tweaking state curriculum to emphasize the importance of Christian doctrine in America's founding.
Critics complain that a few activists with religious or ideological objections have too much power to shape what the state's more than 5 million public school students learn.
Also Friday, the board approved a new high school curriculum that drops algebra II as a graduation requirement for most students.
The academic overhaul grew out of a law passed overwhelmingly by the state Legislature last year. It also cut the number of standardized tests high schoolers must pass from 15 to five.
The board's 14 to 1 vote formally beings implementation of the new curriculum, which takes effect in September.
It is designed to create greater course flexibility for students who want to focus on career training.
Some policy experts claim Texas is watering down its graduation standards and say fewer students will take algebra II if not required to.
But industry leaders say the law will better-prepare high school graduates for the modern workforce.