There are several items in the news of interest to us here at Florida Citizens for Science. We’ll start with the budding coverage of a bill filed in our state legislature that could directly impact science education here in the Sunshine State. (See our issues page “Controversial Theories/Rigorous Standards” Bills 2019 for all the gory details about the bill.)
From the Tampa Bay Times: Education bills continue to mount as Florida legislative session nears.
SB 330, by Sen. Dennis Baxley, would allow school districts to adopt their own academic standards, as long as they are more “rigorous” than the state minimum standards. Among other things, the bill — a return of Baxley’s SB 996 from 2018 — calls for the teaching of “controversial” science theories and concepts in a “factual, objective and balanced manner.” Such language has raised concerns within the Florida Citizens for Science, which sees this measure as a way to challenge climate science and evolution without ever mentioning them by name.
From the National Center for Science Education: A new antiscience bill in Florida
Although there is no indication in the bill about which “theories and concepts” are deemed to be “controversial,” much less any guidance about adjudicating disputes about which are and which are not, it is suggestive that the bill’s sole sponsor, Dennis Baxley (R-District 12), has a history of antievolution advocacy.
On a different subject, news stories have been popping up about teacher shortages in Florida schools, with science and math topping the list. WUSF reports: Science, English, Math Teachers In Short Supply in Florida Public Schools
The annual report points to issues such as a scarcity of certified teachers in subject areas such as general science, physics and chemistry when compared to fields such as elementary education. Also, it details factors such as teacher-education programs turning out relatively few science and math teachers.
And, finally, we’re also interested in a bill filed in our state legislature that would mandate that all public schools offer a bible elective course. From the Orlando Sentinel: Bible study as mandatory elective in Florida public schools? Orlando pastor says that’s dangerous
The language of the bill and Daniels’ history on the subject of religion and government was enough of a red flag for David Williamson, who is the co-founder for the Central Florida Free Thought Community for humanists and skeptics.
“I don’t think that the pastor representative Kim Daniels has the intention of teaching about religion objectively. I think she has to put that in that bill so that it gets voted on favorably and it passes the Florida legislature,” Williamson said.
He also pointed to the controversial topic of evolution versus creationism in science classes as another roadblock toward making Bible classes a mandatory elective in Florida.
Stay tuned for updates on these stories and more in the coming weeks.