You may find this difficult to believe, but the Louisiana legislature is taking yet another step into the darkness. Bear with us and all will be revealed. In the Westport News of Westport, Connecticut we read Bill would lessen restrictions on school textbooks.
It’s an Associated Press story about some additional creationist madness in Louisiana. That maniacally-governed state doesn’t have enough of it yet. We can’t excerpt much from the AP story, but we’ll do our best to let you know what’s happening.
A member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Frank Hoffmann (that’s his page at the legislature’s website), has introduced a bill in the House Education Committee that would change the way textbooks are selected.
Hoffman represents Ouachita Parish. He’s a retired assistant superintendent of their school system. Drawing upon the wisdom he’s accumulated as a career bureaucrat in the public school system, Hoffman has introduced House Bill 580. We’re certain that this is only the first of several posts we’ll be writing about it.
That bill is, at least for the moment, clumsy to find at the legislature’s website. Go here: HB580 – 2011 Regular Session, which takes you to a starting page. Scroll way down to the “Bill Search” section. The second window down there should say “HB” and you’ll need to put 580 in the third window. Then click the “View” button. Yee-haw — you’re there!
In the “History” section you’ll see that the bill passed the Committee on Education yesterday, so now it’s going to be voted on by the entire House. Can you guess what’s going to happen there?
The text of Hoffman’s bill can be found here: HOUSE BILL NO. 580. It’s a 9-page pdf file, with a load of strike-throughs and substituted stuff. It’s difficult reading, but we’ll struggle through it.
The guts of it, in our humble opinion, is that lists of basic text books chosen by the board — the word “board” isn’t defined, but we think it’s the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) — shall be “recommended” — the bill adds that word to an existing law that says: “The board shall adopt lists of [add: recommended] basic textbooks.” The new bill means that the board’s textbook lists are more or less meaningless; they’d be advisory at best. Adding the word “recommended” means that each local school would be on its own.
But that’s not all. The bill would also authorize local schools (not the board, which now has the authority):
to select and purchase textbooks not included on the lists adopted by the board pursuant to the provisions of this Section, provided that such authorization shall be subject to [delete: prior approval] the rules and regulations adopted by the board.
So local schools can ignore the “recommended” lists and then go out and buy their own texts — with state money. But there is this safeguard in Hoffman’s bill:
The board may disapprove of the use of textbooks not on the state list of recommended textbooks.
The board can disapprove, but their prior approval isn’t required. That’s nice. Notice that it’s utterly unclear what the board’s disapproval means, and there are no procedures described for resolving such an issue. “Disapproval” is something the board would have to initiate on its own, and then they’d have to blaze a trail through the trackless administrative jungle. This disapproval mess would, we assume, be occurring after the local school has already bought the books.
Additional provisions of Hoffman’s bill delete existing law that authorizes the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to “prescribe and adopt and exercise control and supervision over the distribution and use of free school books and other materials of instruction for use in elementary and secondary schools and special schools.”
We’re not sure about this stuff — it’s a lot of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo — but it looks to us as if Hoffman’s bill would let each local school transform itself into a flat-earth academy if it wanted to, with the only limitation being that the “board” (presumably BESE) could disapprove the textbooks chosen by the school — but there’s no provision for board approval in the first place. That’s a clumsy and intentionally toothless safeguard.
Okay, that’s our first-day analysis. Let’s go back to the AP story in the Westport News. They say that in the committee hearing which approved the bill:
Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, questioned whether the state should be moving away from uniform textbooks when pushing uniform accountability standards. He also asked whether the bill would let school districts introduce creationism into science classes.
Penetrating question. Here’s what AP says was Hoffman’s answer:
“That’s not the purpose of this, but a system would have more flexibility in any of their books, including science books,” replied Hoffmann, R-West Monroe.
Ah, creationism isn’t the purpose. No, of course it isn’t. All Hoffman wants is “flexibility” in choosing science books. We can always take the word of a creationist politician. One last excerpt:
BESE supported Hoffmann’s proposal Wednesday, along with several religious groups, school superintendents, local school boards and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
So there you are, dear reader — more madness in Louisiana. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on 23 June 2011, so they have more than enough time to adopt this enlightened law for academic freedom, allowing each school the right to decide for itself to become a Flat-Earth Academy. This is a good law for Louisiana.
Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.