State lawmakers killed a bill Thursday that allows science teachers to incorporate information outside the approved curriculum to help students analyze and learn. Supporters of the measure say it gives teachers power to facilitate understanding; opponents question whether the measure solves a real problem.
Proponents of Senate Bill 83 say some science curricula show only one side to issues including climate change. State Senator Brock Greenfield says teachers should have the freedom to use additional research in their classrooms.
"What we’re being asked to do as a society is to just accept whatever it is that academia, that the so-called experts, want to cram down our throats. I think it’s a good thing to be inquisitive," Greenfield says.
The bill’s supporters say teachers are pressured into keeping critiques of controversial topics out of class.
State Senator Deb Soholt says that anecdote does not represent all science instructors, because teachers she talked with say they don’t feel restricted.
"These issues of suppression of teachers’ voice and being able to do analysis seems to me a local school board issue, that if truly those teachers are being held to a place where they can’t move their students to inquiry, then that needs to be handled at a local level versus some state legislation that now we’re getting into mandating curriculum, if you will," Soholt says.
The language in Senate Bill 83 says the measure does not promote religious or non-religious doctrine; still, debate in the state Senate Education committee skewed toward issues of belief – even from opponent State Senator Alan Solano.
"I know in this bill we try to avoid faith. I can’t do that," Solano says. "I can’t approach what my kids learn without putting my faith and using my faith to develop the context for what they’re learning."
Solano says he embraces science standards in school, because his responsibility as a parent is to understand the teachings and offer his children perspective based on his family’s religious beliefs.
Members of the committee killed Senate Bill 83 by a slim margin. The vote to defeat it was four to three.