WE were pleased to recently report that a Texas Creationism Bill is Dead. We were even more pleased when the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reported not only about that, but also on a different bill, HB 2800, which likewise died on 01 June when the Texas legislature adjourned. See: Antievolution bills die in Texas.
That motivated us to revisit some other bills affecting the evolution-creationism controversy that had been pending in Texas. We last wrote about them here: Texas Creationism Legislative Update (16 Apr ‘09). Now we’ll review them again — or rather, we’ll write their obituaries:
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. The Senate bill died in committee, as did its companion bill in the House.
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. The Senate bill died in committee. There was a companion bill: HB 710, on which there were hearings in the Public Education committee. A substitute bill (which still sunsets the BOE) was reported favorably, and was voted on by the House. It failed to pass (yeas 71, nays 73). Here’a a link to the voting record. We understand that the Texas House is currently 76 Republicans and 74 Democrats. It’s been apparent that Republicans in Texas tend to be creationists, so the vote was probably predictable.
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. There was some testimony taken in committee on 14 April, but there was no further action so the bill died in committee. There was no companion bill in the House.
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. The bill died in committee and there was no companion bill in the Senate.
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” — whatever they might be — 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. The bill died in committee and there was no companion bill in the Senate.
HB 2800: “Relating to exempting certain private nonprofit educational institutions from state regulation applicable to degree-granting institutions.” This is the one that NCSE reported about. It was introduced by House member Leo Berman. 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 teaching creationism. The bill died in committee and there was no companion bill in the Senate. However, as you know, ICR has sued that board, seeking an injunction to compel the board to certify ICR’s creation science teaching degree. See: ICR v. Paredes.
We understand that there were other bills in Texas related to the evolution-creationism controversy this session, but we never found any information about them. Had one of them passed we’d almost certainly know about it, so whatever they were, they’re gone.
What’s left for us to watch in Texas? A substitute chairman of the Board of Education will be appointed by the governor to replace the creationist dentist, Don McLeroy, who nevertheless remains a member of the board. The ICR litigation is in its beginning stages, so that should be heating up. And in a state as large as Texas, with so many creationists in office, we’re confident that we we’ll still have more tales of Texas creationism to write about.
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