Louisiana’s science community is sounding the alarm over a Louisiana Family Forum-backed (need we say more?) bill in the Legislature that would compromise oversight of textbook adoption and the use of taxpayer money in purchasing textbooks.

House Bill 580, according to the Louisiana Coalition for Science, is another “stealth creationism bill” that attempts to do an end run around the state Board of Elementary & Secondary Education’s lawful oversight of the textbook-approval process. The bill, the LCFS asserts, also expands the reach of the Louisiana Science Education Act “by removing from current law crucial protections that ensure quality science education materials.

The LCFS goes on, saying HB 580:

Replaces BESE’s power to “prescribe and adopt” textbooks and instructional materials with the power merely to “recommend.” This will gut the board’s power to protect the quality of science textbooks and learning materials. Students could end up using substandard materials that teach pseudoscience.  

Allows local school boards to adopt and purchase — at taxpayer expense — textbooks and other materials that are not on the state list, without proper screening by scientists, educators, and curriculum experts, and with no spending limits. This blank check for bogus materials comes during a severe recession when schools face stiff budget cuts and teacher layoffs.

Eliminates the Department of Education’s crucial role in (a) screening and reviewing textbooks and instructional materials to ensure their quality and (b) assuring that textbook adoption committees are composed of properly qualified members, as currently provided for under current law.

The bill will likely be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe, made a name for himself promoting creationist “academic freedom” while serving as an assistant superintendent in Ouachita Parish a few years ago.

“HB 580 is a bad law that threatens the quality of learning materials on which Louisiana students depend at a time when they need the highest quality science education possible,” the LCFS concludes. “It is also a disaster for school budgets.”

Read an analysis of the bill here. http://lasciencecoalition.org/docs/LCFS_Analysis_HB_580_6.13.11.pdf

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