Who will determine what is noninflammatory, objective, and balanced?

The bad Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education bills are both seeing action this week.

houseIn the Florida House:

On Monday at 12:30 the House version (HB 989) will be considered by the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee. However, the bill might change. A proposed committee substitute has been filed, which, if approved, would replace the original version.

I’ve looked over the proposed replacement and I see that the part allowing any taxpayer to challenge instructional materials has been changed to “a parent or a resident of the county.” That narrows the potential for trouble from carpetbaggers from anywhere to just local folks.

Another change is that the bill is shorter by six pages primarily due to the removal of a lot of specific language such as one thing we here at Florida Citizens for Science have been questioning: instructional materials must “Provide a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.” The tricky thing is that it’s not actually gone. Instead of spelling it out, the bill now simply refers to various existing Florida statutes, such as 1006.31, which states: “Instructional materials recommended by each reviewer shall be, to the satisfaction of each reviewer, accurate, objective, balanced, noninflammatory, current, and suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented.”

So, our concerns about how this bill could affect science education aren’t going away. Statements made by the Collier County group that recruited lawmakers to file and sponsor these bill need to be spotlighted. Please go back and read my previous post about how they complain that evolution passages in textbooks don’t have “a balanced discussion of the biblical explanation” and they praised an apparently successful effort in Brevard County to keep materials out of the schools partly because they contain statements about human-caused global climate.

I encourage you to read the House Staff Analysis for the bill. It is a helpful document as it outlines what effects the bill would have if approved. One interesting part of the bill is:

The [bill] revises provisions relating to a school district’s process for challenging the adoption of an instructional material by:

  • allowing a resident of the county to challenge the school district’s adoption of an instructional material; and
  • requiring the process to meet the procedural safeguards of the Administrative Procedures Act relating to the appointment of an unbiased and qualified hearing officer. The officer may not be an employee, agent, or contractor of the school district.

Right now, I believe that once a school board makes a decision about the use instructional materials that someone has challenged, that decision is final. But if I understand correctly, this bill would require the appointment of a hearing officer.

senateIn the Florida Senate:

Meanwhile, the Senate version (SB 1210) will be considered by the Education Committee Monday at 1:30. So far, I don’t see any indication that there are any changes to that bill.

Call to Action:

Both committee meetings will be held in the afternoon. That gives you time in the morning to contact all of the lawmakers on each committee to register your concerns and opposition to these dangerous bills. Go to the committee webpages and click on each lawmaker’s link to find their email and phone information. If anyone wants to compile that information for ease of use, please feel free to do so in the comments. I encourage you to highlight the Collier County group’s own opposition statements about evolution and climate change. It would be invaluable to have lawmakers bring them up during the committee meetings as evidence against these awful bills.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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