“Book banning” bill written by creationists/climate change deniers to get first hearing

Florida HB 855, which has been dubbed a “book banning” bill by nearly everyone with an ounce of common sense, is scheduled for its first hearing in the house PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee, Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.

The entire bill is overflowing with horrible ideas meant to bully school boards across the state into submission when the bill’s originator, the Florida Citizens Alliance, comes calling to demand removal of anything they deem to be inappropriate. They are targeting the coverage of religions in history courses, the alleged presence of porn in literature, and the presence of evolution and climate change in science textbooks.

For background information on this bill (and its companion in the senate SB 1454), please read our first alert about it: New Instructional Materials bill includes “controversial issues” requirement. That post breaks down many of the key issues of the bill and reveals a little background about the bill sponsor, Rep. Walter Byran “Mike” Hill from Pensacola. Then read the update post: Getting ready for another wild ride in Tallahassee. That post has a brief bullet point list of the bill’s many problems.

The bills have been taking a beating in the media and elsewhere:

It’s time for you to contact every single member of the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee and let them know how destructive the creationist, book-banning, climate change denying Alliance’s crusade will be. If you discover any updates to the representative’s contact information (such as a Twitter handle), please let us know so we can update this list. And if you get any meaningful responses, we would like to know that, too.

Chair: Donalds, Byron [R] (Note: Donalds is known ally of Florida Citizens Alliance)
Email: byron.donalds@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @ByronDonalds
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5080
District Office: (239) 417-6270

Vice Chair: Latvala, Chris [R]
Email: chris.latvala@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @ChrisLatvala
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5067
District Office: (727) 724-3000

Democratic Ranking Member: Webb, Jennifer Necole [D]
Email: jennifer.webb@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @jenniferwebbfl
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5069
District Office: (727) 341-7385

Bell, Melony M. [R]
Email: melony.bell@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter:
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5056
District Office: (863) 285-1101

Brannan III, Robert Charles “Chuck” [R]
Email: chuck.brannan@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter:
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5010
District Office: (386) 758-0405

Eskamani, Anna V. [D] (Note: Eskamani has already publicly supported sound science education and opposed the Florida Citizens’ Alliances’ agenda.)
Email: anna.eskamani@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @AnnaForFlorida
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5047
District Office: (407) 228-1451

Grieco, Michael “Mike” [D]
Email: mike.grieco@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @Mike_Grieco
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5113
District Office: (305) 993-1905

Hage, Brett Thomas [R]
Email: brett.hage@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter:
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5033
District Office: (352) 315-4445

Hill, Walter Bryan “Mike” [R] (Hill is the bill sponsor and a known climate change denier.)
Email: mike.hill@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter:
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5001
District Office: (850) 494-5690

Hogan Johnson, Delores D. “D” [D]
Email: delores.johnson@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter:
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5084
District Office: (772) 595-1391

LaMarca, Chip [R]
Email: chip.lamarca@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @ChipLaMarca
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5093
District Office: (954) 784-4531

Santiago, David [R]
Email: david.santiago@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @dsantiago457
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5027
District Office: (386) 575-0387

Smith, David [R]
Email: david.smith@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter:
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5028
District Office: (407) 971-3570

Thompson, Geraldine F. “Geri” [D]
Email: geri.thompson@myFloridahouse.gov
Twitter:
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5044
District Office: (407) 245-0288

Trumbull, Jay [R]
Email: jay.trumbull@myfloridahouse.gov
Twitter: @jaytrumbull
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5006
District Office: (850) 914-6300

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Florida Science Education needs you!

Who would have ever thought that in the 21st Century, in the State that is the Gateway to Space, we would have to put forward a fight to save Science?

Florida Citizens for Science had been fighting the good fight since 2006; now more than ever, we need more citizens to step up and support Science

Please consider coming to our annual meeting this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Stetson University in DeLand. We have a room in the Hollis Center. Contact me if you need more information. If you can’t join us on Saturday, please consider taking on a task for the Organization, either as a Board Member, Committee Chair or other activities. You just need to contact me (bhaught@flascience.org).

We will be electing our board of directors and then our officers Saturday. And we’ll discuss the many, many, many issues impacting science education here in our state. There are bills in the state legislature about instructional materials, curriculum, alternate paths to graduation, and voucher-accepting private schools. There’s also the governor-directed revision of state academic standards (including science). And what about teacher shortages, especially in science and math?

The good news is: our social media presence is skyrocketing. The views on our various social media platforms are in the thousands lately. That’s a wonderful testament to our tenacity and longevity. I can remember not too long ago when we were lucky to break double digits on our social media interactions. So, there’s clear interest in what we’re doing.

We need:

  • Teachers of every level in every School District
  • Parents, including connections with STEM Teams and Science Fair committees
  • Scientists, active or retired
  • College professors and students
  • Citizen scientists
  • Science writers / media
  • Anyone who cares about SCIENCE!

Check out our website to see what’s happening!

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Science Education not important in Florida senate

With an 8 to 0 vote in the Florida senate education committee yesterday, SB 770 cleared its first hurdle after undergoing several changes. Despite an overhaul of the bill and a couple of amendments tacked on, our key concern about science education requirements for graduation getting sliced and diced is still there.

A quick recap: SB 770 (and its companion in the house HB 661) provides a new pathway to high school graduation for students who don’t see college in their futures. Students can take the Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway proposed by SB 770, earning industry certifications throughout high school which can count as credits toward a high school diploma. Overall, that’s a good thing. I completely agree that college isn’t for everyone. I didn’t go to college until a couple of decades after high school.

The problem is that the CTE pathway option allows students to substitute industry certification for two of the three science credits required for graduation. A student could graduate having taken only the state mandated Biology course and no other science class.

I watched the committee meeting discussion about SB 770 (link here, with SB 770 starting around 16:00) and initially thought my concerns had been allayed when the sponsor, Sen. Travis Hutson, explained that he was presenting an all-new version of his bill to the committee. He said that the CTE pathway now featured “all courses are just the same, just as rigorous” as the other high school diploma options. He said the vocational courses would be taken care of through the “elective track.” I cheered, thinking that three science courses required for graduation had been restored.

I was then excited to see a woman speak during public comments (at about 38:00 in the video) about the importance of math and science, using her extensive experience as a retired science teacher and guidance counselor to tell the senators to not cut the number of math and science credits. Later, during discussion among the lawmakers, they made it seem like the revised bill didn’t cut the number of courses.

Unfortunately, the new bill version still allows students to reduce the number of science course that they have to take (bold emphasis is mine):

244 3. Complete three credits in science. Two of the three
245 required credits must have a laboratory component. A student
246 must earn one credit in Biology I and two credits in equally
247 rigorous courses. The statewide, standardized Biology I EOC
248 assessment constitutes 30 percent of the student’s final course
249 grade. A student who earns an industry certification for which
250 there is a statewide college credit articulation agreement
251 approved by the State Board of Education may substitute the
252 certification for two science credits, except for Biology I;

Therefore, we here at Florida Citizens for Science still oppose this bill. The senate bill has two more committee stops and the house bill has three committee stops and hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing in any yet.

Meanwhile … “book banning” bills still getting a lot of attention

Instructional Materials Bills SB 1454 & HB 855 are taking a beating in the press as they get labeled “book banning” bills over and over.

Joe Henderson: Florida Citizens Alliance is for freedom, but only its kind of freedom

The FCA wants to wrest from the hands of teachers and students the book “Essentials of Oceanography” from Pearson Education Inc. It commits the high crime of suggesting climate change is real and is affecting oceans.

It’s not as Florida students would benefit from learning how man-made climate change might have led to the rapid intensification of Hurricane Michael last fall before it annihilated parts of the Panhandle, right?

Florida Bill Would Make Banning Books Easier

The Florida Citizens Alliance has been known to speak up against climate change, charging science textbooks used in the classroom promote it, and they’ve had a history of challenging a variety of texts throughout various counties in the state that they believe to be hindering a Christian agenda (this group has called explicitly for Religious education in the classroom), and/or are infused with “pornographic” content.

The Florida book banners are back

A bill birthed in the febrile minds of an outfit called the Florida Citizens Alliance, HB855/SB1454 would allow parents to insist school districts protect innocent tykes from the knowledge that anthropogenic climate change is real, we are indeed kin to monkeys, slavery was not a good thing, American history is not an unbroken string of righteous behavior, some people are born gay or bisexual or transsexual, and humans have sex.

Destructive Legislation Explained by Florida Education Defenders

These bills are a blatant attempt from Florida Citizens Alliance to control educational materials and agendas, censor information they oppose politically and leave generations of students worse off than those that have come before them. Florida Education Defenders is a group of organizations, including National Coalition Against Censorship, ACLU of Florida, Florida Citizens for Science, PEN America, and more, interested in protecting the students of Florida from censorship and special interests.

The Alliance isn’t happy with this media coverage, insisting that their bills aren’t about banning books. They’re also pressuring lawmakers to schedule their bills for committee hearings soon.

Meanwhile … “alternative theories” bill has national attention

Academic Standards Bill SB 330 (no HB) is being laughed at across the country.

Conservative lawmakers have climate change education in their scopes

These attempts to make science into just another ideology are worrying, but not quite as scary as the anchorless reality that Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley—sponsor of one of those Fair and Balanced bills mentioned earlier—seems to live in. “There is really no established science on most things, you’ll find,” he said.

And it appears that more and more people are taking climate change seriously, especially here in the Sunshine State: Saint Leo University Survey Finds Sizable Numbers Say Climate Change Theory Should Be Taught in School; One in Four Say Individuals Are Able to Act in Preventing Ill Effects

A new survey conducted nationally and within the state of Florida by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute has found a majority of those responding think climate change should be taught as accepted theory in public primary and secondary schools. In the cases of both U.S. and Florida results, more than six in 10 respondents agreed strongly or agreed somewhat with the idea.

Meanwhile … “common core” continues to hog the spotlight

All state academic standards are under review right now and a timeline has been set for when recommendations for how to revise or replace the standards will be released. But, as with all news stories on this issue, the only standards to get any attention are the common core ones. Florida standards review targets fall for recommendations

The Florida Department of Education aims to release its recommended changes to the state’s academic standards in September or October, so the public can have time to make final comments before a proposal heads to lawmakers in early 2020, chancellor Jacob Oliva told the State Board of Education on Tuesday.

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News & Updates 3/17/19

We’re monitoring several bills in our state legislature that could negatively impact science education. The good news is that so far there has been very little movement. One has been scheduled for a committee hearing and others have gotten some press. But the session is still quite young and we can’t relax until it’s all over May 3. You first opportunity for action is the Alternative High School Diploma Bill in the senate. We need you to contact committee members to warn them about the negative consequences of the bill. Read further down in this post for more information and the committee members’ contact information.

Here are some bills we are tracking that have updates (but this is not everything we are tracking):

  • Alternative High School Diploma Bills (that allow students to graduate having taken only one science course)
  • Instructional Materials Bills (that contain references to “controversial issues”)
  • Academic Standards Bill (that contain references to “controversial theories”)

Alternative High School Diploma Bills: SB 770 & HB 661

These bills would allow students to graduate high school with only 18 credits instead of 24 and would allow students to substitute science and math courses with courses that lead to some type of industry certification. The main problem with these bills is that a student could graduate high school after having only taken one science course!

I wrote a blog post about it here: Should Florida students be allowed to graduate with only one science course?

I wrote an op-ed about the bills that was published in the Tallahassee Democrat. And a longer version was published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. (Unfortunately, I messed up and wrote SB707 instead of SB 770 and neither paper caught the error.)

Science and math are just too darn hard. We can’t expect everyone to know the difference between astronomy and astrology or be able to read a scatterplot graph.

That’s a message now coming from Tallahassee. Apparently, science and math are just too “advanced” for our poor high school students. So, bills filed in Florida’s House and Senate aim to give students a way to avoid those difficult subjects.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal also wrote an editorial opposed to the bill: Students deserve high standards.

Hutson’s legislation throws a troubling wrinkle into the mix, however. He proposes scaling down higher-level math, science and writing class requirements for students enrolled in a vocational program. Those students could also graduate high school in three years — with 18 credits, and as little as one class in science and two in math.

TAKE ACTION: The senate bill is now scheduled for a hearing in the education committee, Tuesday 03/19/19 at 4 p.m. Please call or write the members of the committee to let them know that this bill is a bad idea. Send them links to the op-eds linked above and put your own personal take on the issue. They need to hear from you!

Chair: Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. (R)
diaz.manny.web@flsenate.gov
District office: 305-364-3073
Capitol office: 850-487-5036
Twitter: @SenMannyDiazJr

Vice Chair: Senator Bill Montford (D)
montford.bill.web@flsenate.gov
District & Capitol office: 850-487-5003
Twitter: @BillMontford (but account isn’t active)

Senator Dennis Baxley (R)
baxley.dennis.web@flsenate.gov
District office: 352-750-3133
Capitol office: 850-487-5012
Twitter: @dennisbaxley

Senator Lori Berman (D)
berman.lori.web@flsenate.gov
District office: 561-292-6014
Capitol office: 850-487-5031
Twitter: @loriberman

Senator Janet Cruz (D)
cruz.janet.web@flsenate.gov
District office: 813-348-1017
Capitol office: 850-487-5018
Twitter: @SenJanetCruz

Senator Keith Perry (R)
perry.keith.web@flsenate.gov
District office: 352-264-4040
Capitol office: 850-487-5008
Twitter: @KeithPerryFL

Senator David Simmons (R)
simmons.david.web@flsenate.gov
District office: 407-262-7578
Capitol office: 850-487-5009
Twitter: @DSimmonsFL

Senator Kelli Stargel (R)
stargel.kelli.web@flsenate.gov
District office: 863-668-3028
Capitol office: 850-487-5022
Twitter: @kellistargel

Instructional Materials Bills SB 1454 & HB 855

These bills are jam-packed with bad news, with massive changes suggested to the way instructional materials (textbooks and other materials used in instruction) are selected and challenged. There’s a lot to be concerned about in these bills, including: “Instructional materials recommended by each reviewer shall be accurate and factual; provide, objective, balanced, and noninflammatory viewpoints on controversial issues.” The controversial issues targeted are, of course, evolution and global warming in science courses. To learn about all of the other problems with these bills and a little bit about the lawmaker behind one, read my blog post New Instructional Materials bill includes “controversial issues” requirement.

Both bills have been assigned to three committees each, which is a good sign. The more committees the bills have to pass through, the better the chances of them being stopped. Neither bill has been scheduled for a hearing yet.

The Tampa Bay Times published a story today (3/17/19) about the bills: Will Florida legislators make it easier to ban books in schools? We’ll soon find out.

Members of the conservative Florida Citizens Alliance have been appalled with what they’ve seen in the books being handed to students in the public schools.

“Pornographic” scenes in novels. Religious “indoctrination” boosting Islam over others in the social studies books. “Unbalanced propaganda” promoting climate change in science texts.

The bills pose a “clear and present danger” to public education, said Brandon Haught, a leader with Florida Citizens for Science and a Volusia County classroom teacher.

Florida Citizens Alliance members “want to bully the school boards into complying with them,” Haught said.

The bills have been assigned to several committees, and have not been scheduled for hearings. But that seemingly long march to the chamber floors isn’t leading the opponents to ease up.

“You might figure there’s no way,” Haught said. “But we can’t dismiss this.”


Academic Standards Bill SB 330 (no HB)

This bill would impact the standards for all academic subjects, especially science. It proposes allowing school districts to adopt their own sets of educational standards if they are “equal to or more rigorous” than the state’s educational standards. The bill specifically targets science standards with the following directive: “Controversial theories and concepts shall be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner.” This, of course, is aimed directly at evolution and global warming. To read more about the background of this bill, see our issues page “Controversial Theories/Rigorous Standards” Bills 2019.

The bill has been assigned to four committees and has not been scheduled for a hearing yet. There is no companion bill in the house.

One columnist in the Orlando Sentinel views this bill favorably: Climate is right to teach skepticism in Florida schools.

But from what I can tell, the most controversial thing about climate change is people saying it’s not controversial.

So I wish Baxley’s bill would drop the evolution fight and solely address climate. I’d like my kids to hear both sides of the story.

Especially when one side is being told by Al Gore.

But an Associate Press article takes a more critical view: School lessons targeted by climate change doubters.

Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley is pressing legislation that would allow schools to teach alternatives to controversial theories.

“There is really no established science on most things, you’ll find,” the GOP legislator said.

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Getting ready for another wild ride in Tallahassee

The state legislative session kicks off Tuesday. We here at Florida Citizens for Science are as busy as can be as we monitor several bad bills filed in the legislature that can negatively impact science education. Additionally, the review of all academic standards directed by Gov. Ron DeSantis has a new plot twist that we need to keep our eye on.

In this post I’ll summarize and provide updates on:

  • Instructional Materials Bills (that contain references to “controversial issues”)
  • Academic Standards Bill (that contain references to “controversial theories”)
  • Alternative High School Diploma Bills (that allow students to graduate having taken only one science course)
  • Revision of the state’s academic standards (including science standards)

Instructional Materials Bills

We told you about HB855, which would, among many things, require all instructional materials used in public schools to be “accurate and factual; provide, objective, balanced, and noninflammatory viewpoints on controversial issues.” We’re worried about the use of the words balanced, noninflammatory and controversial issues. They sound reasonable but we know what they’re really referring to. The organization that wrote this bill, the Florida Citizens Alliance, considers evolution and global warming to be controversial issues that need to be balanced with other “theories.” They already tried several times to make that happen when new science textbooks were purchased last year. In just one county, the Alliance submitted 220 objections to the science texts!

Now we have an update: the house bill has a companion in the senate: SB1454. It’s an exact duplicate of the house bill. The fact that there are identical bills in both legislative chambers is a bad sign.

Other than the problem of evolution and global warming being targeted as “controversial issues” there are several other problems with the bills.

  • It gives a school board power to “proactively remove the material regardless of whether a parent or resident has objected to the material.”
  • It gives citizens who object to a school board’s decision to keep certain instructional materials the authority to “sue in circuit court for an injunction to remove such materials and may recover reasonable attorney fees and costs.”
  • When a hearing about instructional materials is scheduled due to a citizen complaint, the “district school board may not appoint its own hearing officer.”
  • It requires that the hearing officer respond in writing to every complaint filed by a citizen. “Failure of the hearing officer to provide written findings on each objection voids the adoption process.”
  • It prohibits the school board and school district attorney from direct participation in hearing proceedings. “Members of the district school board, the district school superintendent, and any attorney for the school district may attend a hearing as part of the audience, but may not participate in the hearing. An attorney for the school district may not have been involved in designing or establishing the rules of operation for the hearing.”
  • Citizens dissatisfied with the school board decisions about instructional materials can not only sue, but can also go over the school board’s heads. “Decisions regarding such instructional materials by the school board may be appealed by the petitioner to the State Board of Education.”

There are quite a few other problems with the bills, specifically the large chunks focused on pornography. I don’t think there is a single redeeming thing about this pair of bills. This bill is all about the Alliance letting loose its wrath on school boards that have rebuffed them after the Alliance took their new instructional materials law passed in 2017 out for a test drive. They recently stated:

HB 989 was passed in 2017 and was a good start, but unfortunately it lacked the means to hold school districts accountable. Most of Florida’s School Districts ignored the law, and 3 districts (Collier, Charlotte and Martin County) actually made a mockery of it by willfully and blatantly violating the key elements of HB 989.

So, they want a new law passed that will force school boards to bend their knees to the Alliance.

Academic Standards Bill

SB330 could impact the standards for all academic subjects, especially science. The bill proposes allowing school districts to adopt their own sets of educational standards if they are “equal to or more rigorous” than the state’s educational standards. The bill specifically targets science standards with the following directive from lines 62 to 66.

62 (b) Science standards must establish specific curricular
63 content for, at a minimum, the nature of science, earth and
64 space science, physical science, and life science. Controversial
65 theories and concepts shall be taught in a factual, objective,
66 and balanced manner.

As of today, March 2, there is no update on this bill. No companion bill has been filed in the house yet. The senate bill has been referred to four committees. For more background in this bill, see our issues page for it. And see our post about the backlash the bill’s sponsor is getting.

Alternative High School Diploma Bills

SB770 and HB661 have very serious implications for science and math education: Proposed bill would allow Florida students to ditch advanced math for industry certifications

State Senator Travis Hutson (R-St. Johns) introduced a bill last week that, if passed, would dramatically change traditional four-year graduation requirements for high school students by doing away with the requirement to pass some advanced math and science courses.

An op-ed I wrote opposing this bill appeared Feb. 24 in the Tallahassee DemocratFlorida students need more science and math education, not less.

Science and math are just too darn hard. That’s a message now coming from the Florida Legislature. Bills filed in Florida’s House and Senate aim to give students a way to avoid those difficult subjects.

Hutson’s idea allows students to earn a high school diploma having taken only one science and two math classes. That does a gross disservice to our students.

I understand the desire to give students who don’t currently see college in their future a relevant pathway through high school. I didn’t go to college until two decades after graduating high school. But science and math courses shouldn’t be seen as obstacles to be removed. They open doors to future life choices and careers today’s students don’t even know are there yet.

And the Daytona Beach News-Journal agrees with my assessment of the bills: Students deserve high standards

It’s a good thing that Hutson and other lawmakers are looking to the futures of all Florida students, not just those who are university-bound. That will benefit students and the state’s business sector, where employers will need armies of skilled workers to keep air conditioners chilling, tapwater flowing and car engines humming. Certainly, lawmakers should consider investing in a wider array of options for students, and look for industry partnerships that will allow corporate underwriting of programs crafted to deliver work-ready students into good-paying jobs.

But they shouldn’t chip away at the standards Florida has set for all students — particularly in science, writing and math. The trade isn’t worth it, and it isn’t needed to advance career education.

Revisions of the state’s academic standards

Gov. Ron DeSantis is making good on a campaign promise he made to launch a revision of the state’s education standards. The headlines have been making a big deal out of his targeting of Common Core, such as this one: “Florida governor Ron DeSantis orders state to get rid of Common Core standards.” The only Common Core standards Florida has are for language arts and math. But the governor’s executive order clearly says all standards, not just Common Core, will be reviewed. This means the science standards, too!

By January 1, 2020, the Commissioner of Education shall comprehensively review Florida’s Kindergarten through grade twelve academic standards and provide recommended revisions to the Governor.

I posted about this already. But the new tidbit is that Eric Hall was appointed to be Florida’s first chancellor for innovation.

In Florida, Eric will report directly to Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran and will focus on implementation of top education priorities such as workforce and computer science education, expanding school choice, K-12 standards and more.

I highlighted in bold the interesting part. Will Hall have a role in the governor’s standards review? What are Hall’s views on “controversial” science topics?

I’ll reemphasize: the legislative session starts Tuesday. Are your seat belts buckled?

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Should Florida students be allowed to graduate with only one science course?

A bill filed in the Florida senate has very serious implications for science and math education: Proposed bill would allow Florida students to ditch advanced math for industry certifications

State Senator Travis Hutson (R-St. Johns) introduced a bill last week that, if passed, would dramatically change traditional four-year graduation requirements for high school students by doing away with the requirement to pass some advanced math and science courses.

The reason behind the bill is to allow students to focus on being workforce ready, not college ready. Sen. Hutson said:

“We are forcing districts to take children that probably can’t pass some of these classes and just make them try. The children suffer, they get frustrated,”

The news article is rather misleading. The story keeps referring to “advanced” math and science courses.

“Under my proposed bill, you only have to take 18 total courses and in math, you don’t have to pass Algebra II, you can replace that with an industry certification course that is more technical and career-focused,”

Is Algebra II really considered advanced? I tend to think calculus, probability/statistics, trigonometry and such are the advanced courses, but I could be wrong. I’m not a math teacher.

But the story only makes the one mention of “advanced science courses” without elaborating. So, we need to read the bill to see what’s going on there: SB 770. (I’ve emphasized the key part in bold.)

31 (a) In order for a student to satisfy the requirements of
32 the CTE pathway option, a student must:
[…]
56 3. Complete three credits in science. Two of the three
57 required credits must have a laboratory component. A student
58 must earn one credit in Biology I and two credits in equally
59 rigorous courses. The statewide, standardized Biology I EOC
60 assessment constitutes 30 percent of the student’s final course
61 grade. A student who earns an industry certification for which
62 there is a statewide college credit articulation agreement
63 approved by the State Board of Education may substitute the
64 certification for two science credits, except for Biology I;

Wow. A student taking this path to a diploma can get out of high school with only one science course. One.

This bill cuts out one math course, allowing a student to graduate with two math credits instead of three. No other subjects take cuts in credits in this bill. But science? Two can be cut, allowing a student to graduate with one science credit instead of three.

The news article referred to the science credits being cut as “advanced” science courses. No, this isn’t cutting anything advanced. This is cutting ALL science other than the state mandated biology course.

Is that a good idea? Will a student graduating under this program really be career ready? How about life ready? We already have a problem with general science literacy (The less people understand science, the more afraid of GMOs they areWhat is climate science literacy?A Look at What the Public Knows and Does Not Know About ScienceAlmost a third of Brits people STILL don’t believe Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, survey finds). Do we really need to make it worse?

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Florida Dept. of Education is looking for your input about standards

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis caused quite a stir when he announced he was directing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to review the state’s academic standards and suggest revisions by January 1, 2020. I believe every single news story focused nearly exclusively on the governor’s desire to throw out Common Core standards, which are math and language arts. But as I’ve pointed out before, the governor’s executive order says: “By January 1, 2020, the Commissioner of Education-shall comprehensively review Florida’s Kindergarten through grade twelve academic standards and provide recommended revisions to the Governor.” The executive order does later emphasize the elimination of Common Core, but also mentions civics education, which is not Common Core. This strongly suggests that all standards are under review, which means science, too.

With that in mind, please consider offering your input to the Florida Department of Education. The DoE has posted a link to a survey for citizens to complete. It’s a very simple one that asks only three questions: your name, your organization and then a text field for you to offer your opinions on the current standards and suggest what should replace them.

Even this Orlando Sentinel article about the survey falls into the trap of only mentioning Common Core.

To that end, the Florida Department of Education has opened a survey, seeking input on what educators, parents and others might not like about the Common Core standards and what they think should be adopted in their place.

Unless the governor or the commissioner state explicitly that science standards are not being reviewed, I suggest that we assume they are. With that in mind, please consider filling out the DoE survey. Do you like our current science standards? Should we keep them? If not, should we go with the Next Generation Science Standards (which would likely be a non-starter give the hatred for Common Core)? Or what other science standards do you suggest?

Speak up. Be heard.

https://www.clickinmoms.com/cmprodaily/feels-good-to-be-loud/

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New Instructional Materials bill includes “controversial issues” requirement

A bill filed Friday in the Florida Legislature, House Bill 855, proposes making a slew of changes to instructional materials laws, tackling issues like pornography and sex education. Science is not directly mentioned in the bill, but there are two sections that can definitely impact science materials.

One proposal is small yet significant. Below is a section of current law that the bill would change. Parts underlined are additions to law the bill proposes, and strike-throughs are deletions.

462 (2) EVALUATION OF INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS.—
463 To use the selection criteria listed in s. 1006.34(2)(b) and
464 recommend for adoption only those instructional materials
465 aligned with or exceed the Next Generation Sunshine State
466 Standards provided for in s. 1003.41. Instructional materials
467 recommended by each reviewer shall comply with all quality and
468 content criteria established in state law, including an
469 assurance that such materials are researched-based and proven to
470 be effective in supporting student learning; are be, to the
471 satisfaction of each reviewer, accurate and factual; provide,
472 objective, balanced, and noninflammatory viewpoints on
473 controversial issues; are, current, free of pornography and
474 material prohibited under s. 847.012; are of acceptable quality;
475 are in full compliance with s. 847.012, s. 1003.42, and all
476 other state laws relating to instructional materials;, and are
477 suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the
478 material presented.

My first concern is in line 465: the addition of “or exceed.” I believe this is meant to dovetail with another bill we’re watching in the senate (Senate Bill 330) that proposes allowing school districts to choose their own sets of academic standards as long as they are equal to or more rigorous than the state’s academic standards. In other words, the Florida Citizens Alliance, who wrote the senate bill and this bill, are trying to influence several parts of Florida education law and weave them all together into their own vision of what education should look like. The addition of “or exceed” can be seen in several places throughout this bill.

The next concern is lines 472 to 473: namely the “controversial issues” part. The Alliance tried several times to get equal time in science textbooks for their creationist and anti-global warming views. When they ultimately failed, they complained that school boards were not adhering to Florida state statute 1006.31, which says, “Instructional materials recommended by each reviewer shall be, to the satisfaction of each reviewer, accurate, objective, balanced, noninflammatory, current, free of pornography …” So, here they are trying to include that language in another part of state law and marry it to the phrase “controversial issues.” This bill also adds a reference to 1006.31 in line 532.

An interesting fact to note is that the bill sponsor is Rep. Walter Byran “Mike” Hill from Pensacola. I recognize him from an interview he did with Bill Nye in the National Geographic Explorer show Bill Nye: Global Meltdown. I show that video to my high school environmental science class every year. Rep. Hill frustrated the heck out of Bill Nye because Hill steadfastly refused to acknowledge that global warming is a very real threat being caused by humans. I recommend you see for yourself. Rep. Hill’s interview starts around 8:30 in this version. No wonder Rep. Hill would agree to help the Alliance with this bill.

The other main concern I have with this bill is the changes being made to the hearings that must be held whenever a citizen complains about instructional materials. If you’re not familiar with the relatively new law about hearing officers, read our issues page about it.

A new law passed by our state legislature and signed by our governor in 2017 now allows any citizen, not just a parent, to protest to local school boards about instructional materials and those protests could then force the school board to appoint a hearing officer to collect evidence about the complaints. This has led to several challenges already, some of them blatantly targeting evolution and other science topics.

First, here is one drastic change:

230 3.a. If the district school board finds that an
231 instructional material does not meet the criteria under sub
232 subparagraph 2.a.a. or that any other material contains
233 prohibited content under sub-subparagraph 2.b.b., the school
234 district shall proactively remove discontinue use of the
235 material regardless of whether a parent or resident has objected
236 to the material for any grade level or age group for which such
237 use is inappropriate or unsuitable.

I believe this will allow for any school board member who doesn’t like certain instructional materials, such as textbooks with evolution of global warming, to claim that the materials were not properly vetted and toss them without having to wait for a citizen to file a complaint.

And here’s the real kicker:

248 d. After exhausting all local policy remedies and
249 appealing to the State Board of Education, a parent or resident
250 may sue in circuit court for an injunction to remove such
251 materials and may recover reasonable attorney fees and costs.

Don’t like the school board’s decision? Sue them.

The Alliance raged about the perceived unfairness of the hearings they engaged in last year when they tried to challenge evolution and global warming in the science textbooks that were up for adoption by the school districts. They vehemently disagreed with the selection of the hearing officer and the way the proceedings were conducted. You can see for yourself how they reacted to the hearings in Collier County in my post about that experience.

So, they want to change key elements of the process (underlines are additions; strike-throughs are deletions):

252 4.3. Each district school board must establish a process
253 by which the parent of a public school student or a resident of
254 the county may contest the district school board’s adoption of a
255 specific instructional material. The parent or resident must
256 file a petition, on a form provided by the school board, within
257 30 calendar days after the adoption of the material by the
258 school board. The school board must make the form easy to use,
259 prominently advertise the school board’s policy and the form
260 available to the public, and publish the form on the school
261 district’s website. The form must be signed by the parent or
262 resident, include the required contact information, and state
263 the objection to the instructional material based on the
264 criteria of s. 1006.31(2) or s. 1006.40(3)(d). A hearing officer
265 must give priority to a parent’s or resident’s objections based
266 on failure of a material to comply with the criteria of s.
267 1006.31(2) or s. 1006.40(3)(d) in his or her written findings.
268 Within 30 days after the 30-day period has expired, the school
269 board must, for all petitions timely received, commission
270 conduct at least one open public hearing by an independent
271 before an unbiased and qualified hearing officer. A district
272 school board may not appoint its own hearing officer and the
273 hearing officer may not be an employee or agent of the school
274 district. At least 7 days before the hearing, a school board
275 must provide each petitioner with a written notification of the
276 date and time of the hearing and publish on its website for the
277 public all instructional materials included in a petition. A
278 school board’s failure to provide petitioners with the required
279 written notice or publish such instructional materials on its
280 website for the public shall result in the hearing being
281 rescheduled to satisfy these requirements. The hearing is not
282 subject to the provisions of chapter 120.; however, The hearing
283 must provide sufficient procedural protections to allow each
284 petitioner an adequate and fair opportunity to be heard and
285 present evidence to the hearing officer on all petitions timely
286 received. The hearing officer shall provide written findings on
287 each objection with his or her recommendations to the school
288 board. Failure of the hearing officer to provide written
289 findings on each objection voids the adoption process. Members
290 of the district school board, the district school
291 superintendent, and any attorney for the school district may
292 attend a hearing as part of the audience, but may not
293 participate in the hearing. An attorney for the school district
294 may not have been involved in designing or establishing the
295 rules of operation for the hearing.
297 The rationale for the school board’s decision for each contested
298 instructional material must be documented and available to the
299 public. Decisions regarding such instructional materials by the
300 school board may be appealed by the petitioner to the State
301 Board of Education. A petitioner may appeal the decision of the
302 state board to a circuit court and may seek damages or
303 injunctive relief, or both. The circuit court has original and
304 exclusive jurisdiction of all proceedings brought under this
305 section. If any proceeding brought under this section is deemed
306 to be frivolous by the court, the petitioner may recover
307 reasonable attorney fees and costs after convening a hearing is
308 final and not subject to further petition or review.

Wow. Just wow. That is breathtaking. The Alliance didn’t like who the school boards selected as hearing officers, so lines 271-271 take care of that. The Alliance didn’t like that some hearing officers didn’t submit written recommendations, so lines 285-289 take care of that. The Alliance didn’t like how the school district lawyer interpreted the law governing hearings, so lines 289-295 take care of that. And the Alliance didn’t like the school boards’ decisions, so lines 301-308 take care of that.

And that’s how special interest groups in Florida make laws.

I haven’t discussed in this post the sections on sex education and pornography because they’re not really relevant to our focus on science education. But they’re just as insane as what I’ve covered here.

This bill is a clear and present danger to all of Florida education. It essentially gives special interest groups like the Alliance immense power to bully school boards into submission.

We need your help to fight this bill. There is a chance that it won’t ever make it out of the starting gate, which would be wonderful and wise. But the Alliance has been growing in influence. Remember, Alliance members were on the new governor’s education transition team. We can’t just assume that bad bills like this one will be sidelined. We have to remain vigilant and active.

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