Current Issues (2017 & 2018)
Florida Citizens for Science is facing an unprecedented year full of attacks on science education in 2018. Each of the links below goes to a page with details about each issue. You can also access each issue’s page through the drop down menu at the top of the page.
- “Controversial Theories” Bill: An “Academic Freedom Act-style” bill has been pre-filed for the 2018 state legislative session. It encourages school districts to adopt their own sets of education standards that are more rigorous than the state standards. And if they school districts do adopt their own standards, the science standards are required to include: “Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner,” which clearly targets evolution and climate change and invites forms of creationism and climate change denial be taught as “balance.”
- New Textbook Challenges Bill: Following up on 2017’s successful passage into law of new methods of allowing citizens to challenge materials in public school textbooks, a bill has been pre-filed for the 2018 state legislative session. This bill proposes allowing citizens to suggest alternate materials that school districts will then be forced to solicit bids for.
- Textbook Challenges Law: 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 a few challenges already, some of them blatantly targeting evolution and other science topics.
- Religious Expression in Schools Law: Another new law in 2017 allows any student or school employee to freely express their religious views in school, which could impact how students answer questions on assessments and assignments and how teachers and school administrators present material to students.
- New Instructional Materials for Science: The Florida Department of Education’s review and selection of new science instructional materials has now kicked off. In light of the new instructional materials law, we could see some fireworks as the process gets moving in early 2018. Additionally, Marion County decided to not use the state process for reviewing new science textbooks, instead initiating their own selection process.
- Science Assessments: Annual statewide science assessment results have been poor and stagnant for many years. The Florida Department of Education has barely acknowledged this (and I would argue they have even tried to hide it) and hasn’t offered any solutions.
- State Constitution Revision Commission: Every two decades a commission is charged with reviewing the Florida constitution and suggesting changes to it. The commission is now in session and considering several proposals that can impact education, such as: “Deleting language barring state funds from going to ‘aid of any church, sect or religious denomination.'” And another one suggests “Allowing the state to use taxpayer dollars to fund private, religious schools.”
Florida Citizens for Science has been on the front lines for more than a decade, fighting on behalf of science education. Here are some highlights from past years.
- “Academic Freedom” bills in Florida legislature, 2008: There is no rest for the weary. Florida Citizens for Science members celebrated the approval of the state’s new science standards only to be confronted a few weeks later with two deceptively-named “academic freedom” bills in the state legislature. The bills were originally copies of each other but eventually diverged. Both bills passed in their respective chambers but couldn’t be reconciled at the last minute and died.
- Evolution in the state science standards, 2008: Throughout 2007 and into 2008, Florida Citizens for Science members were active in the state science standards revision process. Members assisted in the framing, writing, and editing of the new standards. As expected, a statewide conflict erupted over the prominence of evolution in the new document, prompting a vigorous campaign by FCS to defend sound science education. A dramatic Board of Education meeting capped off the months-long saga, resulting in a close vote approving the standards with some minor tweaks.
- Anti-evolution “critical analysis” bill filed, 2009: State Senator Stephen Wise filed a bill that would require “critical analysis” of evolution in public schools. However, the bill never advanced and eventually died without a hearing. Sen. Wise was quoted in the news as saying he wanted Intelligent Design taught, but the concept wasn’t put in writing in the bill. See our string of blog posts covering this issue.
- Anti-evolution “critical analysis” bill filed again, 2011: State Senator Stephen Wise filed a bill yet again that would require “critical analysis” of evolution in public schools. The bill suffered the same fate as its 2009 version.
All of these past conflicts are detailed in the book Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom written by Florida Citizens for Science communications director Brandon Haught and published by the University Press of Florida.