Texas Creationism Legislative Update (16 Apr ’09)

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NOW that the Texas Board of Education (the BOE), chaired by Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist, has devised a science curriculum that will virtually assure the selection of creationist textbooks and the teaching of creationism in Texas science classes, the legislators have been getting restless.

This is a listing of several bills currently pending in the Texas legislature that may affect the teaching of creationism. Each link to a bill’s number takes you to a page at the Texas legislature’s website from which you can see the bill’s history, text, sponsors, etc.

Several of these bills are attempts to reform, enfeeble, or sunset the BOE. Others encourage the inclusion of creationism in the curriculum. We may have missed some bills that belong on this list, but here you’ll find all of those we’ve posted about before, and a few more we’ve been able to locate. We haven’t studied these in detail, so one or two of them may be of no concern. They all seem relevant to us, however.

They’re listed in numerical order, Senate bills first. If a Senate bill has a companion bill in the House, it’s listed with the Senate bill; but we’ve included a reference to it sequentially with the House bills.

SB 440, “Relating to transferring the statutorily assigned functions and activities of the State Board of Education to the Texas Education Agency.” Introduced in the Texas Senate by Senator Rodney Ellis, the bill would strip Don McLeroy’s Texas Board of Education of its authority over textbooks, curriculum and graduation requirements. The BOE would be left with only its narrow constitutional duties, including managing the Permanent School Fund. Companion bill: HB 3382.

SB 513, “Relating to placing the State Board of Education under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission.” Introduced in the Texas Senate by Senator Rodney Ellis. Companion bill: HB 710. There were hearings on the House bill in the Public Education committee. A substitute bill (which still sunsets the BOE) was reported favorably, and now it will be voted on by the House. A vote hasn’t been scheduled yet.

SB 2275, “Relating to the adoption of the public school curriculum and textbooks; transferring authority from the State Board of Education to the commissioner of education.” Sponsored by Senator Kel Seliger, a Republican. No companion bill.

HB 710: Companion to SB 513, listed above.

HB 2261, “Relating to establishing a select committee to review the manner in which textbooks for use in public schools are funded, adopted, and purchased.” The nine-member “select committee” will be mostly members of the legislature, with three “public members” — one appointed by the speaker of the house, one by the governor and one by the lieutenant governor. Sponsored by Diane Patrick. No companion bill.

HB 2327, “Relating to approval by the State Board of Education of certain public school courses for use in satisfying mathematics or science course requirements under the recommended and advanced high school programs.” This would allow “enrichment curriculum courses” for mathematics or science to be proposed by school districts and approved by the BOE, “if the board determines that the course offered by the district in the enrichment curriculum contains academic content substantively similar to and as rigorous as a mathematics or science course in the foundation curriculum.” Sponsored by Marc Veasey. No companion bill.

HB 2800: “Relating to exempting certain private nonprofit educational institutions from state regulation applicable to degree-granting institutions.” It was introduced by House member Leo Berman. It’s been sitting in the Public Education committee since 17 March. This bill would exempt institutions such as the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) from the jurisdiction of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. That board officially certifies the degrees offered by Texas colleges and universities; and the proposed exemption would allow ICR to grant a master’s degree in creationism. No companion bill in the Senate.

HB 3382: Companion to SB 440, listed above.

HB 4224, “Relating to the teaching of science in public schools.” The bill is sponsored by Wayne Christian. It’s typical of other anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism bills modeled after the misleadingly-named Academic Freedom Act, promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). It would restore the pro-creationist “strengths and weaknesses” language to the science standards. No companion bill in the Senate.

So there you are. We’ve found seven different items of legislation (not counting companion bills). The Texas legislative session adjourns 01 June.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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