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A look at 2019 bills related to climate change and education

March 6, 2019

In statehouses around the country, lawmakers this year have introduced bills seen as threatening instruction on science, including on climate change.

Here is a look at pieces of legislation flagged by the nonprofit National Center for Science Education, and the inspiration behind some of them.

ARIZONA

A proposal from Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican, seeks to prohibit teachers from advocating for “any side of a controversial issue” and require them to provide students with materials supporting both sides of any controversy presented in class. The bill does not single out any specific issues. Finchem did not respond to requests for comment.

CONNECTICUT

A bill in the state House would eliminate climate change from the Next Generation Science Standards that were adopted in Connecticut in 2015. The author, Rep. John Piscopo, a Republican, is a member of the Heartland Institute who said he has found the advocacy group’s materials questioning the scientific consensus on climate change to be persuasive. He also introduced a separate bill that would prohibit the use of the standards altogether.

FLORIDA

A bill in the state Senate would allow school districts to teach alternatives to controversial theories. The bill was suggested by the Florida Citizens Alliance, a grassroots group that says it opposes indoctrination in public schools, and introduced by Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican. A separate bill proposed by Republican Rep. Walter Bryan “Mike” Hill in the state House would require instructional materials to provide “objective, balanced, and noninflammatory viewpoints on controversial issues.”

IOWA

Two separate bills in the Iowa House seek to reverse the state’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. The sponsors, Rep. Sandy Salmon and Rep. Skyler Wheeler, each have objected to the inclusion of climate change in the standards.

MAINE

A bill in the state House proposed to prohibit teachers from advocating for any side of a controversial issue that has appeared in a political platform on the local, state, or federal level. The bill sponsored by Rep. Lawrence Lockman, a Republican, did not mention any issues specifically and was defeated. Lockman did not respond to messages seeking comment. He has said he believes it’s an open question whether human activity is the primary cause of climate change.

MONTANA

A bill defeated in the Montana House would have required any instruction on climate change to include a list of claims questioning whether it is actually happening. It was proposed by Rep. Joe Read, a Republican.

OKLAHOMA

Sen. David Bullard, a Republican, took inspiration from the Discovery Institute’s model legislation for a bill calling for teachers to address “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. The bill was defeated in committee.

NORTH DAKOTA

A bill proposed by Sen. Jeff Hoverson called for giving teachers freedom to teach strengths and weaknesses of theories and controversies. Hoverson, a Republican, withdrew the bill and said he wanted to assess the strength of local support for it before proceeding further.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Three bills have been proposed so far in South Dakota to give teachers freedom regarding controversial issues or to prohibit political indoctrination.

VIRGINIA

A bill calling for teachers to avoid political or ideological indoctrination of their students was proposed by state Rep. Dave LaRock, a Republican who said his bill was inspired by the work of David Horowitz, a conservative activist.