Florida Classroom Censorship Bills Pass Through Committee, Await Final Hearing Before Vote

Florida flagThe two nearly identical bills in the Florida legislature that would facilitate challenges to classroom materials have both advanced through the Education Committees in their respective chambers, despite warnings from CBLDF and our partners in the National Coalition Against Censorship that the legislation would undermine educational quality and encourage schools to deviate from state standards.

In advance of the House Education Committee’s vote on HB 989 last week, CBLDF signed on to a letter from NCAC imploring members to consider how the bill would invite “wasteful, expensive, and viewpoint-based challenges to curricular materials.” Nevertheless, the bill passed through committee with a 16-2 vote on Thursday. Its twin in the Senate, SB 1210, was already unanimously approved by that chamber’s Education Committee and now awaits a hearing in Appropriations.

The two bills are slightly modified versions of others that failed during the 2016 session and purport to require “a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues” presented in textbooks and other instructional materials. But the two groups pushing the legislation, the Florida Citizens’ Alliance and Better Collier County Public Schools, have in the past raised objections to the teaching of climate change and evolution, as well as books with LGBTQ themes. Advocacy groups, including the National Center for Science Education and Florida Citizens for Science, warn that the true objective of the bills is “inserting creationism and climate change doubts into the classroom.”

Thankfully, the bills have at least been amended to remove one of the most extreme provisions, which would have allowed anyone who has paid sales tax in Florida to challenge classroom materials anywhere in the state. Both bills have now been modified such that challengers must be legal residents of Florida.

According to a blog post by Florida Citizens for Science, HB 989 passed the Education Committee with no debate and little public comment. The hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the final step before a full vote of both chambers, has not yet been scheduled but FCS is urging Florida residents who oppose the legislation to contact their representatives now.

Below, check out the letter that NCAC sent to leaders of the House Education Committee before last week’s vote.

HB989 by betsy.gomez on Scribd

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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.