Archive for the 'Instructional Materials bills ’17' Category

“Nowhere in the material is a balanced discussion of the biblical explanation.”

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

textbookskullsThe instructional materials bill in the Senate has now been scheduled for a hearing in the education committee March 27th. Last year the bills didn’t make it on to any committee calendars. So this is an unfortunate step forward for them them this year. Call education committee senators now. Refer to our Instructional Materials bills ’17 blog post category for background information on this bad bill that can have a significant negative impact on science education.

The group behind these bills is Florida Citizens’ Alliance. In news stories that have been published about these bills so far we’ve pointed out that evolution and climate change could be targets. But representatives of the Alliance blow off our arguments, claiming that’s not a goal of their campaign. That’s a very bold lie. They want materials that “Provide a non-inflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.” They constantly tout their Objectionable Materials list [link to pdf] as proof that these bills are needed. Scroll down on that document to page 8 and you will find:

“Florida History: People And Nations” Authors: Anatole Mazour, John Peoples, Publisher: Harcourt. In Collier and Marion Counties so far, teams in Volusia, Okaloosa, Charlotte and Brevard are in process’. This book is full of factual errors and half-truths.

That link takes you to a page on their website that has several “objections” to “factual errors and half-truths” about evolution. And another objectionable material complaint is also on page 8:

World History- Ancient Civilization: Author” Holt McDougal, Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt 6th grade History: These two pages teach the children that we descended from apes. This is stated as a fact not a theory.

That link takes you to another page with this significant red flag: “Nowhere in the material is a balanced discussion of the biblical explanation.”

And just a few days ago, the Alliance reported a victory in getting supplemental materials removed from 6th grade classrooms in Brevard County that referred to man-made climate change as fact. (Note: we need to research this claim. If anyone reading this is in Brevard County, please help us verify this.) In response to one statement found in the materials, the objection was:

This statement leads the child to believe that man made global warming is a scientific fact, when it is not. Man made global warming is a hoax, based only on computer models and false data, and is an injustice to the child, by not teaching scientific fact. It is pure and unadulterated false propaganda.

Representatives of the Alliance are clearly lying with the proof seen right there on their own website and in their own materials promoting the bills! A clear goal of these bills is to target evolution and climate change.

Don’t let them get away with this. Contact the senators on the education committee. Challenge this bill on behalf of science education in our state!

More press about bills

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

There are more news stories today about both the Religious Liberties bills and the Instructional Materials bills that we here at Florida Citizens for Science are opposed to and tracking.

Naples Daily News: Senate committee pushes ‘religious expression’ bill forward

Brandon Haught, a high school biology teacher representing the organization Florida Citizens for Science, says the bill would have detrimental effects specifically in science education.

“Does this mean that a teacher or school personnel can then talk about stuff like the age of the Earth and evolution from a religious perspective, and if someone was to try to counsel them not to do that, would that be discrimination against the teacher?”

Haught also raised concerns about students being able to refute what is being taught based on their own religious beliefs.

“This has a chilling effect on science teachers across the state who would prefer to short-change evolution instruction rather than deal with potential conflicts with students, parents and the community,” Haught said.

Tampa Bay Times: ‘Religious liberties’ measures diverge, but advance

The bills were once identical, but the House Pre-K-12 Quality Subcommittee amended its bill to make it more narrow than the Senate’s …

At this point that seems to be our best hope. The House and Senate versions are different and if they are both approved by their respective chambers, they will need to be reconciled before moving to the governor’s desk. We’ve seen bills fall apart at that stage before and we’re hoping it happens again now.

Meanwhile, the Instructional Materials bills get some media attention too.

Naples Daily News: Leon educators say ‘instructional materials’ bill not needed

Flaugh said he and others in the Alliance define “objectionable material” within the textbooks to be that which is “strongly biased on major issues.” However, critics of the bill say it could be a Trojan horse to undermine instruction of climate change and evolution.

Flaugh characterizes the bill as straightforward, simply a way to control quality when it comes to what a community’s children are reading and discussing.


Wood, however, thinks the legislation was proposed to benefit special interests with hidden agendas.

“This bill seems like a well-disguised way for single-issue interest groups who don’t have students in public schools to work their agendas,” she said.

textbookskullsKeith Flaugh and his Florida Citizens’ Alliance are trying to tap dance around specifics when called out on them. But they’ve been passing around copies of their “Objectionable Materials” list [pdf document] that shows on page 8:

World History – Ancient Civilization: Author” Holt McDougal, Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
6th grade History: These two pages teach the children that we descended from apes. This is stated as a fact not a theory.

That link in their document takes you to a page of their website that states this:

Collier County 6th grade History: These two pages teach the children that we descended from apes. This is stated as a fact not a theory. Nowhere in the material is a balanced discussion of the biblical explanation.

Trojan horse, indeed. Fortunately, both the Senate and House versions of this bill are still stalled with no committee hearings scheduled.

Lots and lots of bill updates today

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

senateThere’s quite a bit to talk about today. I’ll start with the Religious Liberties bills that we oppose on the grounds they can negatively impact science education. One passed the Senate judiciary committee this afternoon on a narrow, party line vote of 5-4.

I spoke at this meeting but I don’t think I performed all that great. The committee chair was impatient as the meeting was running long and he started to impose a time limit on speakers that he hadn’t for the hour leading up to this bill’s discussion. So, by the time I got up there I had already chopped two paragraphs from my planned remarks but I still felt pressure while standing before the committee chair to speed things up even more. So, I wound up stumbling and pausing a bit as I tried to make sure my most important points were covered. You can watch the video here. The Religious Liberties bills portion starts at 52:04. Sen. Dennis Baxley, the bill sponsor, irritated me a bit when in his closing remarks he said he wasn’t going to chase rabbits and red herrings, which I believe meant, at least in part, my arguments about evolution.

houseI couldn’t attend the House committee meeting that was considering that chamber’s version of the bill because it was being held the same time as the Senate meeting. But according to the news articles, there was overwhelming support for the bill. The vote was 14-0.

There are a few news articles popping up already this evening about the bill. I and Florida Citizens for Science do get good mentions in some of them.

Miami Herald: Plan to fortify religious expression in public schools quickly advancing

Sunshine State News: Religious Liberties Act Heading to the Senate Floor

Florida Politics: ‘Religious expression in public schools’ ready for full Senate vote


The other bills we’re tracking about Instructional Materials got some press today. But they’re, fortunately, still stuck in the starting gate with no scheduled committee meetings yet.

NBC, Channel 2, Fort Myers: Creationism, evolution optional in Florida classrooms with new bill


And I’ll close for now with my interview with the Tampa Bay Times’ Gradebook blog podcast that was published today: Can science and religious expression coexist in Florida public schools?

Let’s not forget about the Instructional Materials bills

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

climate changeWe’ve been giving a lot of attention to the Religious Expression in Public Schools bills because they’re seeing quite a bit action in the Florida legislature. But let’s not forget that we’re also monitoring Instructional Materials bills filed in both chambers (House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210). We’re concerned about a few points in the bills, such as the requirement to: “Provide a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.” That’s a potential back door for inserting creationism and climate change doubts into the classroom.

That’s illustrated wonderfully in this Naples Daily News article that was published online today: Teaching of evolution, climate change at stake in Byron Donalds’ bill. I was interviewed at length for this piece and I think our views came across loud and clear.

“This has caused a chilling effect on teachers,” said Brandon Haught, a high school biology and environmental science teacher in Orange City, Florida, and a founding member of Florida Citizens for Science, a group that describes their mission as “defending against attacks on science education from lawmakers.”

Haught pointed out many people find the teaching of evolution and climate change “inflammatory” and “unbalanced,” thus any person visiting Florida who pays tax on a cup of coffee could make the case for teaching creationism and non-human induced climate change in front of a school board. If the majority of the board agrees, those topics would be integrated into the curriculum of each public school in that district.

Others interviewed for the story wave off our concerns as being possible yet far fetched. But then they say …

Keith Flaugh, co-director of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, a conservative group that helped write the language for the bill, doesn’t deny the possibility of that outcome.

“So long as the material is presented in a balanced way, that’s fair game,” he said. “We want kids to get a balanced view of the world, not an indoctrinated view of the world.”

Mike Mogil, co-owner of Mathworks Tutoring in Naples and a former meteorologist, said if the bill is passed he would use the opportunity as a non-parent to challenge how climate change is taught.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, 6,000 I would be there in front of the school board,” he said. “If we’re going to teach climate change, let’s teach it in the context of geological changes. Not to say that humans are great stewards of planet Earth — we are not — but CO2 produced by humans is not the primary cause.”

There’s a lot more to the article and I highly recommend that you read it. I feel that reporter Annika Hammerschlag did a very good job.

Instructional Materials bills starting to get attention

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

TextbooksTwo bills filed in the Florida legislature that could make significant changes to how textbooks and other instructional materials are selected and reviewed at the local school district level are getting attention from the media and other organizations. We believe that the bills (House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210) could open a back door for inserting creationism and climate change doubts into the classroom and now our concerns are being noted. For background on our opposition to the bills, see the series of posts in our Instructional Materials Bills ’17 category.

First, the Miami New Times has a story today: “Antiscience” Bill Would Force School Boards to Listen to Silly Complaints About Books. The article doesn’t shed any new light on the issue, saying that the House bill’s sponsor, Byron “Donalds, who is also pushing controversial legislation that would undercut the Sunshine Law, could not be reached for comment.” But the story does put our concerns front and center to a wider audience, which we certainly appreciate.

Also, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization that supported our opposition to similar bills last year, is ready to do it again this year: Florida Classroom Censorship Bills Return for Second Year. We’re looking forward to partnering with them for another round.

The House version of the bill has picked up a few co-sponsors. In addition to the main sponsor, Donalds, there are also Joe Gruters, Stan McClain, and Charlie Stone. The bill has been assigned to the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Education Committee but it hasn’t been put on any of the committees’ meeting schedules yet.

The Senate version has also picked up co-sponsors. In addition to the main sponsor, Tom Lee, there are also Debbie Mayfield and Greg Steube. The bill has not been assigned to any committees yet.

When more is not merrier

Friday, February 24th, 2017

We noted yesterday that the bad Instructional Materials bill from last year has been resurrected for another attempt this year in the Florida House. Unfortunately, the House bill now has a companion in the Senate that was filed today: SB 1210. I believe it’s a duplicate of the House bill. The Senate bill was filed by Sen. Tom Lee and co-sponsored by Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

The same folks who were behind the bills last year, the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, are back to take credit for the bill filings this year. Note that at that link they’re providing a way to easily send messages to the bill sponsors and they encourage folks to personalize the provided email text. Anyone can use it … just sayin’.

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education have taken note of the bills: Antiscience Bill in Florida.

And let’s not forget that we’re also monitoring the Religious Liberties bills. See that growing list of posts here. It’s been a while since we’ve had to monitor multiple different bills in a legislative session.

It’s baaaaack: Instructional Materials bill filed

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

TextbooksLast year, Florida Citizens for Science voiced our opposition to bills filed in the Florida legislature that would have made significant changes to how textbooks and other instructional materials are selected and reviewed at the local school district level. The good news is that the bills died. The bad news is that the bill is back for another try in the House.

Rep. Byron Donalds recently filed HB 989: Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education. It’s nearly identical to the bills filed last year. Here’s a link to last year’s House bill: HB 899. The current bill omits one of the worst parts of last year’s bill about giving parents and taxpayers the right to take their challenges of instructional materials to court. But everything else is still there, such as this requirement: “Provide a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.” That’s a potential back door for inserting creationism and climate change doubts into the classroom. In case anyone thinks we’re being paranoid, remember that the folks behind last year’s bill clearly believe that evolution instruction should be balanced with religion.

So, everything in our press release from last year still applies this year except for the section about Costly Court Cases.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Gradebook blog makes the following observation about Donalds:

Donalds is married to Collier School Board member Erika Donalds, past president of the conservative Florida Coalition of School Board Members, a group that split from the Florida School Boards Association over school choice issues. The coalition is vocally supportive of “home rule” issues.

In Search Of … Instructional Materials Bills Sponsors

Monday, November 14th, 2016

TextbooksDo you remember the Florida Citizens Alliance? I sure do. They’ve been gnashing their teeth over a wide array of materials they find offensive in a variety of textbooks, including the teaching of evolution as “true” without a religious counterargument. They were behind the filing of Instructional Materials bills in the Florida Legislature during the 2016 session that would have addressed their grievances. We were against their bills then (see our old press release and series of posts). And now the Alliance is looking for allies among the 2017 crop of lawmakers to give it another go.

FLCA leadership and local grassroots teams are actively reaching out to all FL Legislators to successfully pass this bill this 2017 cycle. We need you to respectively remind each of them that 2.7 million Florida students, our children and grandchildren, need their aggressive leadership to save their future as productive citizens of our great state.

Their attempt last year was a dismal failure. The bills were filed but went absolutely nowhere. That doesn’t mean there will be a repeat in the 2017 session. There are new faces. And keep in mind that the country overall is apparently heading in a new direction via the presidential election. We need to be vigilant and prepared.