Archive for the 'Instructional Materials bills ’16' Category

Session over; Instructional Materials bills dead

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

TextbooksThe Florida legislative session is mercifully over and the instructional materials bills we’ve been tracking are history. These ill-conceived bills would have changed the way textbooks and other educational tools are reviewed and selected, handing entirely too much power to well meaning but non-expert parents and not so well meaning, ideologically driven special interest groups. You can learn more about the bills and why there were bad for science education in our news release and series of blog posts.

I told the National Center for Science Education this weekend: “We’re fortunate and happy that these bad bills didn’t get out of the starting gate,” Florida Citizens for Science’s Brandon Haught told NCSE. “The good thing to come out of this brief fight is that a clear anti-science motivation behind these bills is now documented. The bills’ sponsors and supporters aren’t likely to give up, though. But we’ll be ready, just as we have been for a full ten years now.”

I predict that the main cheerleaders for these bills, Florida Citizens Alliance, will be back. They have a sizable network and they visited Tallahassee in person to help round up four co-sponsors on the senate bill and 19 co-sponsors on the house bill. They’re worth keeping an eye on.

On the other hand, as I told NCSE, the good thing is that Florida Citizens Alliance handed us all sorts of evidence of their anti-science views, which can be very useful in the future. And we also made some very good friends with other groups opposed to the Alliance’s antics.

Instructional Materials Bills Update

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

My column was published in the Community Voices section of today’s Daytona Beach News Journal: Don’t mix science, religion in public schools. It’s haysa rebuttal to a previous column written by a Flagler County school board member. She supported the two very bad instructional materials bills currently languishing in the Florida legislature. My piece goes out on a limb with a fun analogy inspired by the bills’ senate sponsor. Sen. Hays is a dentist, semi-retired. I felt I needed to poke him a bit while I still could. Hays announced recently that he’s not running for reelection in the senate but is instead shooting for a supervisor of elections position. He won’t be missed by us at Florida Citizens for Science. But he will be missed by me, though, because he was a reliable anti-evolution quote machine. Read some of his greatest hits in my latest Going Ape post.

As far as the bad bills are concerned, the good news is that neither one has been scheduled for a single committee hearing. The bills in their current form are essentially dead. There’s not enough time left in the legislative session for them to see any progress.

Notice I said “in their current form.” That’s because a part of the concept behind the bills is alive and now lurking as an amendment to a different bill that is moving along. This Tampa Bay Times blog has the scoop. So, the folks behind those bad instructional materials bills have managed a small victory and so have we. If the amendment survives and the bill it’s attached to passes into law, a subset of what they don’t like — “any material containing mature or adult content” — can be challenged. But I don’t see how the amendment can be stretched to apply to our main concern: science education. Here’s the amendment:

The parent of each public school student in grades 6 through 12 must be provided, for each course offered at the school in which the student is enrolled, a course syllabus with a complete listing by title of the instructional materials to be used in the course. The syllabus must identify any material containing mature or adult content and notify the parent of the procedures for objecting to his or her child’s use of a specific instructional material pursuant to s. 1006.28(1)(a)2.

What do you think?

Yet another piece siding with the bad bills appears

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

You’ve got to hand it to the gang supporting those horrible instructional materials bills. They have influential friends and they’re not afraid to use them. Flagler School Board member Janet McDonald wrote a lengthy Community Voices piece in the Daytona Beach News Journal: Give parents curriculum tools. Of course, it touts all the supposed merits of the bills and moans over their mistreatment in Tallahassee.

The implementation of this law has been met with resistance in some districts, especially when community members choose to voice positions on materials in use. Across the state, parents and community members have identified inappropriate instructional materials relative to age and content, religious or political indoctrination, revisionist history, or pornography appearing in materials chosen from state-suggested lists (links to examples available on

I’ve written a rebuttal this evening and shipped it to the newspaper. I’ll let you know if it’s picked up. This is right here in my backyard!

A columnist in their corner

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

The group behind the two very bad “instructional materials” bills currently languishing in the state legislature apparently has a newspaper columnist in their corner. I don’t believe I’ve read Brent Batten’s work before in the Naple Daily News but I’m told that he’s a conservative. As such, Batten has written an article about how the bills are stalled. He goes on at length about the alleged benefits of the bills. And he barely mentions one single objection (out of the many we in opposition have) while quickly dismissing it.

Have a look at the heavily one-sided piece here: No guarantee of book bill’s passage. There is a comments feature on the column but you have to sign up to leave one, I believe.

They’re not dead yet & Getting the word out there

Monday, February 1st, 2016

In my previous post I said that the “instructional materials” bills in the state legislature don’t look like they’re going anywhere. But I also said that they can’t be considered dead yet. I was right: ‘No bill is dead’ in Florida Senate Education, chairman says.

Chairman John Legg told the Gradebook the bills still have a chance to move.

“We are in Week 4 of session. No bill is dead,” Legg said, noting his committee is likely to meet at least twice more.

Florida Citizens for Science gets a brief mention:

He said the instructional materials bill by Sen. Alan Hays is very complicated, with many details that could affect school and district decisions. Florida Citizens Alliance wants to see “revisionist history” removed from materials, for instance, while Florida Citizens for Science has battled the proposals as an effort to put creationism into science textbooks.

But even if the bills finally appear on the committees’ schedules, there are a few more committee stops they have to make before they can be presented to the full House and Senate.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Smith, Florida Citizens for Science president, is not standing idly by. He has a letter in the Lakeland Ledger voicing our opposition to the bills. I’ll reproduce it in full here:

As a taxpayer, would you like to see your own school district throw away millions of dollars and countless hours of media attention, just to appease ideologically driven special interest groups?

Disguised by the smoke and mirrors diatribe of the “local control” mantra, Sen. Alan Hays’ bill (SB 1018 and the companion bill HB 899) would open the doors to endless and expensive headaches over what kinds of textbooks and other materials should be used in Florida’s classrooms.

The language in Hays’ bill seems innocent and full of taxpayer empowerment.

For example, parents can currently complain to the local school board if there’s anything objectionable in a textbook. But the bill, if passed into law, would give any taxpayer the additional superpower of taking the complaint to court if he or she didn’t get what they wanted out of the school board. Hays might as well call this bill the “2016 Trial Lawyers Employment Act.”

The bill would require instructional materials to “provide a non inflammatory, objective and balanced viewpoint on all issues,” which sounds great.

However, the reality is that some people will view biological evolution, which is accepted solid science, as inflammatory, when presented “unbalanced” by other non-science alternatives in the textbooks.

One of the main organizations who helped write and promote these bills – Florida Citizens Alliance – has already gone on record saying as much. They are also opposed to students learning about climate change.

Perhaps another appropriate name for Hay’s bill would be the “Special Interest Entitlement Act.”

I’m sure creationists and global-warming deniers will rejoice!

Jonathan P. Smith
Florida Citizens for Science

not dead

Good news from Tallahassee

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

Good news: it looks like the horrible instructional materials bills filed in the state legislature are stuck in the mud. Insiders who are much more knowledgeable about the inner workings of Tallahassee told me that the bills have several committees to get through. Because they have yet to be put on the meeting schedule in any of them this late in the session, the bills’ chances of passage are slim.

And another good sign is that the bills’ main supporter, Florida Citizens Alliance, has angrily reported that the bills are being blocked.

However, victory can’t be declared until the session is over. There are plenty of sneaky tactics for resurrecting dead bills, such as adding them to other successful bills as amendments.

A little press about “instructional materials” bills

Monday, January 25th, 2016

An Orlando Sentinel columnist takes apart several bills that Sen. Alan Hays has filed this year in the state legislature: Hays files wild bills in Senate. His bill about school instructional materials, which Florida Citizens for Science opposes, gets a mention:

Hays wants parents to be able to inspect all “instructional materials” and to opt their children out of any they don’t happen to like. Talk about a recipe for chaos. The bill also would require districts to adopt “non-inflammatory” books and materials. What does that even mean? The bill is unneeded because the state already has a solution for this problem. It is called home schooling.

On the flip side is a letter to the editor from one of the main authors and supporters of Hays’ bill, Keith Flaugh. Part of his letter says:

Today, materials are laced with revisionist history, religious and political indoctrination, pornography and even math methodologies that boggle common sense.

Parents and grandparents from 11 counties recently went to Tallahassee to urge support for these cleanup bills. We found overwhelming support for “local curriculum control” and repulsion to the age-inappropriate, factually distorted materials being subjected upon our children.

For Florida Citizens for Science’s take on this bill, click on the category in the right column labeled “Instructional Materials bills ’16.”

Update on instructional materials bills

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Two companion bills have been filed in the Florida Senate and House that have a lot of potential for disrupting education in Florida schools. These instructional materials bills have more than one focus, but the one most concerning to us at Florida Citizens for Science is the back door it opens for inserting creationism in science classes. Please see our previous posts on this issue: Time to talk about textbooksTracking Textbook billsNCSE takes note of Sunshine State billsNational Coalition Against Censorship takes an interestYet more examples of what we’re up against, and Florida Citizens for Science News Release.

TextbooksSo far, the bills have been assigned to committees for hearings and votes, but the bills have not been put on any committee’s calendar yet. However, groups that support the bills haven’t been idle. They visited Tallahassee in person last week and spoke with several lawmakers in person. They also distributed materials to all of the lawmakers. This work has resulted in more than a dozen lawmakers adding themselves as co-sponsors of the House bill, giving it support.

We know that Florida Citizens for Science members and friends are strong advocates for science education. Now is the time to put action to your words. Use the information in our press release to write to and talk with lawmakers. Write newspaper op-eds and letters to the editor. Contact us to volunteer your services in whatever capacity you are able. It’s time to get to work.