The nightmare is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. Today the Florida House Education committee considered an Instructional Materials bill that will force school districts across the state to take seriously creationist and climate change denier complaints about textbooks. School districts will be required to appoint “unbiased and qualified hearing officers” when any county resident, not just parents, protests about what’s in any instructional material.
The founders and promoters of this bill have given us mountains of evidence showing how they will use and abuse this bill should it become law. They want some form of creationism taught alongside evolution. They want references to human-caused climate change erased.
And yet the bill passed through the Education Committee on a 16-2 vote. And it happened with no debate and no substantial public comment during the meeting. I want to repeat that to make my point clear. There was no debate. There were no questions.
One issue that we’re realizing is that many lawmakers honestly believe the bill is harmless. One of our Florida Citizens for Science members had emailed a representative to warn about the bill’s dangers and got a reply:
Initially i had serious concerns about the concept of this bill. After hearing it in committee i learned how benign the bill is. So my question to you is, which part of the bill is dangerous?
We’re not getting our message through. It’s clear that none of the legislators have any idea where the bill originated, what the motivations behind it are, and what the consequences will be. During the email conversation, the representative went on to incorrectly claim that the state Department of Education makes the final decision about what what is adopted for use in classrooms. In other words, he doesn’t understand that local school districts make the final decisions concerning what goes into the classrooms and he further doesn’t understand that this bill will force those school districts to take seriously any county resident on an ideological crusade against those materials.
The lowest bar we can possibly set as we fight these bills is to have our valid and evidence-based arguments heard and acknowledged. So far, we’re failing to accomplish even that modest goal. Will you help us?
The last chance we have to be heard is in the final committee stop either bill, in the House or Senate, will have. It will be the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill has not been scheduled for a meeting there yet. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting a head start on contacting the members. Tell them clearly and concisely that SB 1210 is NOT BENIGN. These talking points should help you, especially the links in the second point.
- SB 1210 is unnecessary, since there is already a fair and tested procedure for lodging legitimate complaints about instructional materials;
- SB 1210 would be used to launch scientifically unfounded attacks on climate change and evolution — as its supporters acknowledge (see our posts: “Nowhere in the material is a balanced discussion of the biblical explanation” / “I have witnessed children being taught that Global Warming is a reality” / These dangerous bills need to be disarmed);
- SB 1210 would cost local school boards money by forcing them to hire hearing officers to take such complaints seriously; and
SB 1210 would prolong such controversies indefinitely by rescinding the finality of the school board’s decision on complaints. (Amendments to the bills have eliminated this concern.)
If our concerns aren’t at least brought up during that meeting, then we honestly have little chance of influencing this bill as it goes to the House and Senate floors for final votes.
If you have ever asked “what can I do to support science education,” this is your chance.
Call. Email. Visit. Repeat.