Respite in Florida


When the Florida legislature adjourned sine die on March 11, 2018, two pairs of bills that would, in their different ways, have undermined the integrity of science education in the Sunshine State died.

House Bill 827 and Senate Bill 1644 would have revised the procedures for adopting instructional materials to permit members of the public to recommend instructional materials for consideration by the state or their district school board, which would then be required to get in touch with the publisher of those materials and allow it to submit a bid for evaluation. NCSE's Glenn Branch told Nature (February 23, 2018), "They would make it easier for creationists, climate-change deniers and — who knows — flat-Earthers to pester their local school boards about their hobbyhorse." Both bills were passed by the education committees of their respective houses in February 2018 before dying.

House Bill 825 and Senate Bill 966 would have required "[c]ontroversial theories and concepts ... [to] be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner," while allowing local school districts to use either the state science standards or alternatives "equivalent to or more rigorous than" them. Although no particular theories and concepts were specified as controversial, evolution and climate change were clearly the targets: the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 966, Dennis Baxley (R-District 12), previously engaged extensively in antievolution advocacy both within and outside the Florida state legislature. Neither bill received a hearing in committee before dying.

In a March 12, 2018, blog post, Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science, the grassroots organization most vocal in opposing these bills, warned that despite the respite, "We need your help when these bills pop again next year."