A new instructional materials bill in Florida

12.01.2017

"A controversial new state law that makes it easier for Florida residents to challenge books used in public schools could get overhauled next year so those who dislike certain texts could also suggest replacements they find more appropriate," reports the Orlando Sentinel (December 1, 2017).

Florida's House Bill 827, prefiled on November 28, 2017, would, if enacted, revise 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.

The sole sponsor of HB 827, Byron Donalds (R-District 80), was the main sponsor of HB 989 in 2017, which, as NCSE previously reported, was intended to make it easier for creationists and climate change deniers to pester their local school districts. Supporters of the bill complained, "I have witnessed students being taught evolution as fact ... rather than theory ... I have witnessed children being taught that Global Warming is a reality."

HB 989 was passed and enacted in 2017. According to the Associated Press (November 18, 2017), there have already been at least seven complaints filed, including a complaint in Brevard County that elementary school social studies textbooks are engaged in "blatant indoctrination" by asserting that global warming is caused by human activity, and a complaint in Nassau County challenging the teaching of evolution there.

The chief of legal services for the Nassau County School District told the Sentinel that the passage of HB 827 could be burdensome for districts, adding, "It's troubling to me, for example, the notion that we're going to throw out to the general public … this option of challenging books. ... What expertise do I have to challenge some high school calculus book? ... Don't we have experts?”

In a November 29, 2017, post at Florida Citizens for Science's blog, Brandon Haught suggested that Donalds is evidently "working closely with the creationist and climate change denying folks at the Florida Citizens Alliance" who supported HB 989 in 2017. He urged, "We need to follow this bill closely."