Constitution Revision Commission Update III

Public hearings were held across the state by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission during which hundreds of concerned citizens voiced their opinions about the changes that should or should not be made to the Florida constitution. We’ve been watching this process closely because some propositions, if approved, would open the flood gates for public money to flow into private religious schools. See our Issues page on this for the full background and updates on this.

The public hearings are over and the Commission will now make their final decisions as to which propositions will be put before the voters and how the ballot language will be phrased.

This article provides a very good summary of what the process entails now:

Facing a May 10 deadline, the commission will start meeting Monday in the Senate chamber in Tallahassee as it considers three dozen proposed constitutional changes that have emerged from committee hearings.

The commission, which meets every 20 years and has the unique power to place issues directly on the general election ballot, has scheduled seven floor sessions to wade through the proposals, ending on March 27.

Martinez is sponsoring a measure (Proposal 4) that would remove from the state Constitution the so-called “no-aid” provision, which prevents public spending on churches and other religiously affiliated groups.

To remain viable as potential ballot initiatives, all the measures must receive a majority vote from the commission to advance to the CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee.

The style and drafting panel, which also will begin meeting next week, will play a key role in refining the proposals and creating ballot titles. The committee will also decide whether to let proposals stand as individual items or to group several proposals into single ballot items.

Proposals placed on the ballot will need support from at least 60 percent of the voters to be enacted.

The good news is that a poll was done recently to see what kind of public support there might be for the various propositions. The no aid proposition isn’t looking too good.

[…] voters appear unlikely to approve another high-profile proposal that would lift a ban on state money being used to support churches and other religious groups — what is commonly known as the “no aid” provision of the Constitution.

The no-aid provision, for example, has become an issue in debates about school vouchers. The 1st District Court of Appeal in 2004 cited the provision in striking down a voucher program that paid for children to go to religious schools, though the Florida Supreme Court later found the program unconstitutional on other grounds.

The poll indicated only 41 percent of voters said they “definitely” or “probably” would support a proposed constitutional amendment to remove the no-aid provision from the Constitution, while 51 percent said they definitely or probably would not.

But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax. We all need to stay on top of this issue when public voting starts. And there are other propositions to be wary of, such as #45, which was detailed in our previous post Constitution Revision Commission Update II:

The obvious intent [of proposition 45] is to open a door for state funding of private schools if the legislature deems them to be for, “other educational services that benefit the children and families of this state that are in addition to the system of free public schools.” When combined with Proposition 4, virtually all limits at the state level to taxpayer dollars flowing to support private schools with anti-science agendas will be gone.

Citrus County citizens: don’t tiptoe around “controversial” topics

I’ve been very busy tracking down results of science textbook adoption public hearings and school board votes. I’m discouraged by how many school district websites are absolutely useless in this regard. I would think that posting public notices about instructional materials adoptions on official websites would be the first thing districts would do. But I guess not. See my previous post that lists every single Florida school district and their current known status concerning science instructional materials adoption. I could use your help in keeping it updated.

Many school districts have already had their public hearings about the science materials and of those that I could find meeting summaries or videos, the vast majority didn’t have a single person come forward to speak. On the one hand, that means the creationists aren’t stampeding the school boards. On the other hand, that also means science advocates aren’t either.

One notable exception so far is in Citrus County. I was impressed to watch three women tell the board how they had inspected the textbooks and found them lacking depth in some topics. One speaker told the board that the books lacked necessary detail about topics like climate change and fossil fuels. No, they were not arguing for inclusion of anti-science! Rather they said the books needed much better fact-based information. One woman said that it seemed that some textbooks tiptoed around so-called controversial topics.

My sincere appreciation goes out to these ladies. They did an awesome job of standing up for rigorous science education. They’ve set a wonderful example for the rest of us. See them in action here. The public comments starts at about 59:50.

Final 2018 legislative update

We were deeply worried when the 2018 Florida legislative session kicked off because several bills had been filed that would have directly and negatively impacted science education. A pair of Controversial Theories bills (otherwise known as Academic Freedom bills) would have required in district-adopted science standards that: “Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner.” Another pair of bills would have yet again changed how instructional materials are reviewed and selected, allowing for many more opportunities for creationists and climate change deniers to improperly influence the process.

The legislative session is now over and we’re happy to report that all of those bills died. The controversial theories bills gained no traction at all. The instructional materials bills did meet with some success in committees, but didn’t make it to the floor of either chamber. And we’re very encouraged to see that some lawmakers voiced our concerns about the potential impacts on science materials. That was awesome to see!

I’ve now updated our Issues Pages on these bills “Controversial Theories” Bills 2018 and Textbook Challenges Bill 2018. Despite the good news, I have to admit that the bills’ demise had little to do with our efforts to oppose them. Our voices are starting to be heard, but we’re just not loud enough. We need your help when these bills pop up again next year.

But we’re not done. We still are tracking the progress of the Constitution Revision Commission and staying on the alert as school districts approve their new science textbook selections.

In other words, there is still plenty of work to be done.

Stay alert and stay active.

The looming Storms

For those of you who have been along for the ride with us here at Florida Citizens for Science since the early days, you very likely know one of the most polarizing opponents we faced back in 2008: Ronda Storms. If you don’t know her or just need a refresher, Storms sponsored and went all in for a bill in the state Senate that was a response to the brand new state science standards that had just been approved at the time. Those new standards prominently featured evolution and Storms fumed at that. She filed SB 2692:

The Teaching of Chemical and Biological Evolution [SPCC]; Cites act as the “Evolution Academic Freedom Act.” Provides public school teachers with a right to present scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical evolution. Prohibits a teacher from being discriminated against for presenting such information. Prohibits students from being penalized for subscribing to a particular position on evolution, etc.

It was approved by the Senate and the House approved its version of the same bill, but the two bills were very different and couldn’t be reconciled by the end of the legislative session, thus killing both. The huge fight made big news back then and made up all of chapter 10 “Who Gets to Decide What Is Science” in my book Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom. Storms had several colorful quotes and jaw-dropping things to say about evolution throughout the legislative session.

So, why am I rehashing this history? Because Storms is jumping back into politics: Ronda Storms is back, with a run for District 59 House seat.

She said she’s been repeatedly urged to get back into politics since leaving the state Senate in 2012 to run for property appraiser, losing to Bob Henriquez.

She previously served two terms as a commissioner, 1998-2006, and one and a half terms in the Senate starting in 2006.

In 2005, Storms started a kerluffle when she objected to a display of gay-themed books in a county library during a gay pride event, and successfully proposed a policy barring the county from recognizing gay pride events.

She advocated sterilization for people accused of child abuse and cutting off county money for Planned Parenthood.

And here’s another take on Storms’ announcement: Ronda Storms is back; don’t underestimate her.

She successfully fought to stop county funding for Planned Parenthood. As a state Senator, she pushed for intelligent design to be taught in public schools.

She is unabashed about her faith, her values, and what she wants to accomplish. She can be loud, abrasive, insulting, but mostly she is unafraid of consequences – political or otherwise.

The district she hopes to represent covers much of eastern and southern Hillsborough County and has a lot of rock-ribbed conservatives who basically think the way she does. Her name recognition with those folks alone is enough to make her formidable.

This should be very interesting!

Science textbook removed from adoption consideration in Marion County

I’ve been doing my best to fill in the blanks and obtain updates on my earlier post March is a busy month for science textbook adoptions. In that post I listed every Florida school district and what each one’s science textbook adoption schedule is. Unfortunately, there are a lot of blanks on that list as many district websites don’t have the relevant information posted, at least not in an easy to find place. I’ve had a few people message and email me with updates, which is awesome and sincerely appreciated! But we need so many more. Please consider taking a look at what is happening in your own school district and helping us stay up to date. If you look back at that post you’ll see that I’ve added several updates concerning the results of school board hearings and votes. So far I’ve encountered very little opposition to the textbooks based on creationist or climate change denial arguments. That’s great news and I hope that trend continues. The few times when a creationist protested in some way has been documented in older blog posts, such as Clay County and Nassau County.

The only concern I’ve recently come across is in Marion County. If you’ll recall, this is the district that announced they were going to strike out on their own and not rely on the Florida Department of Education’s approved list. In February a list of textbooks was presented to the school board and approved without any fuss. But a few books were removed from consideration and so the board didn’t vote on them.

  • M/J Physical Science- HMH Florida Physical Science: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: According to the presentation given at the board meeting, this book was removed due to concerns a middle school teacher had about its content. Unfortunately, the specifics were not explained at the meeting, so I don’t know what those content concerns were.
  • Physical Science Holt Science Spectrum: Physical Science Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: This book was removed from consideration because there was inadequate parent input throughout the review process.
  • M/J World History World History: Ancient Civilizations, Florida Edition Cengage Learning: This book was removed from consideration because there was inadequate parent input throughout the review process.

If anyone reading this is in Marion County, would you be so kind as to find out what the content problems were with the first Physical Science book, please?

Edited to add: Here is what was said during the board meeting about the Physical Science book (See the video here. The quoted part starts at about 1:41:08. Note that this is copied from the transcript generated by YouTube and so it may not be exactly accurate.):

The first one that I want to call attention to is specifically physical science. You had the absolute pleasure of hearing from one of our own Marion County middle school teachers that had grave concerns about this book. So upon hearing that our wonderful work of our Secondary Education Department listen to those concerns we actually had personnel that actually went out sat down with that wonderful teacher and really listened to the concerns and it was a substantive concern that this is not in the best interest of our students and this is not the most appropriate resource to put in front of them and we take that seriously. That is the exact reason why we have this process is not only to get the feedback of the actual reviewers themselves but also to listen to comments warranted through this process so we thank that wonderful teacher for bringing this to our attention as we as district did not evaluate for content. So we applaud her for her collegiality and engaging in academic discourse with us so we could understand what the actual issues with the book were so that we can once again start another simultaneous process to ensure that we have materials fit and suited for our students engaging in that specific course for physical science.

The speaker said “You had the absolute pleasure of hearing from one of our own Marion County middle school teachers …” but I don’t know what that references. It could be from earlier in the meeting and I haven’t found that segment, or it could mean they heard from the teacher at some other meeting.

Discovery Institute: defending quality science education is “un-American”

Florida hasn’t been on the Discovery Institute’s radar lately but an article in Nature got them riled up a bit. The DI’s rant “Shock: Florida Laws Would Give Floridians a Say on Science Education” complains about the Nature piece “Florida residents could soon get the power to alter science classes.”

The DI says that allowing citizens input into the selection of textbooks is a good thing. And it is. But a mechanism for citizen input was already in place before our new law expanded their potential influence and mandated a burden on school districts of possibly having official hearings before an appointed hearing officer. The clear intention is to dilute the input of subject matter experts and give more influence to creationists, climate change deniers and other fringe ideas in all academic subjects. We know that for a fact because we’ve been tracking the source of this legislation.

The irony is rich in the DI’s rant:

Wait a minute. Unlike the shape of the earth, the mechanisms of evolution are hotly contested in mainstream science. Unfortunately, it is all too common for students to receive one-sided teaching about neo-Darwinism, amounting to indoctrination. That’s not “objective.” So, as far as it pertains to evolution, a bill that encourages responsible, factual instruction about scientific evidence on both sides — does Darwinian theory adequately explain biological diversity or not? — sounds pretty good! Of course, where there is scientific controversy, science should be taught in a balanced manner. Isn’t science all about critical thinking, weighing and examining data? Bringing a “flat Earth,” or “creationism,” into the discussion doesn’t make sense.

As usual, the DI believes their wacky ideas should be treated seriously but those flat-earthers are nuts.

And creationism was brought into the discussion by the very people who wrote Florida’s new law and the bill in this year’s legislative session.

Fortunately, it looks like this year’s bills that would have allowed even more textbook shenanigans are dead (SB 1644 and HB 827). And the other pair of bills that would have mandated in all science classes “Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner” never really even made it out of the gate (SB 966 and HB 825).

And the DI finishes the piece with:

But the idea that citizens and legislators weighing in will degrade the science education their children receive?

That’s un-American. It’s also dogmatic, not open-minded and scientific.

No. Diluting the input of education and science experts with the uninformed opinions of Joe-the-creationist-with-an-axe-to-grind runs counter to the purpose of education.

March is a busy month for science textbook adoptions

Many school districts are having meetings and public hearings and votes throughout March about new science instructional materials. In some districts that have already approved their new list of science materials, there have been some controversy and close votes. In other districts, the recommended materials were approved without a fuss. Unless you know for certain your school district is safe from creationists and climate-change-deniers (and do your really know for certain?) I would recommend that you get involved.

Below is a list of every single Florida school district. I’ve spent quite a while searching the internet for any scrap of information available about science instructional materials adoption. Some districts have the whole schedule easily accessible. Others, not so much. I could use your help. You’ll notice that many (and I mean many) districts simply had nothing about science instructional materials on their websites. Perhaps you’ll have better luck. Will you take the time to fill in some of those gaps, please? Just send me whatever information you dig up. (Yes, I know that the below list has lots of links that I didn’t hyperlink for you. If you want to do the work, let me know. Otherwise, just copy and paste into your browser.)

The important point here is that you need to look for your district on the list. Then do something! Fill in any gaps. Attend the meetings and hearings if they’re coming up. Find out how your district voted if the meetings already happened. Was there any opposition?

Can’t find any clear instructions on the website

Public Hearing held March 5, 2018 — “No one in the audience addressed the School Board regarding this topic.”
On the agenda for board vote at March 19, 2018 meeting.

On the agenda for board vote at March 13, 2018 meeting.

The Bradford County School District is considering the adoption of instructional materials from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) for science instruction at the elementary and secondary levels. The public review period runs from February 16, 2018 through March 12, 2018. On Monday, March 12 at 6pm, the Board will hold a workshop and hearing. The regularly scheduled School Board meeting will begin immediately after the workshop.

1/23/18 presented to school board for approval (approved as part of the consent agenda)
3/6/18 public hearing
3/13/18 school Board meeting (unsure what for as the materials were approved 1/23)

January Instructional materials public hearing
February board meeting to approve materials
March public hearing (Held March 6. No major issues. Video:
March/April finalized adoption

2017-18 Science Adoption

Community Review of Instructional Materials

No information could be found during a quick internet search and search of the website.

School board meeting March 13 had public hearing during which no one spoke. Board approved unanimously without discussion.

March 13, 2018 Public Hearing at scheduled School Board Meeting for public input related to material recommendations. Three people spoke in general support of the materials but pointed out that some potentially “controversial” topics are tip-toed around in some of the textbooks. They advocated for stronger, more detailed information. See the video at: Public comments start at 59:50.
April 10, 2018 School Board requested to approve recommended instructional materials at their School Board meeting.

Textbooks approved at Feb 1 meeting on 3-2 vote.
See Florida Citizens for Science blog post: Clay County superintendent: “In no way, shape or form do our textbooks or will our textbooks ever reflect evolution as a fact …”

Work group meetings through April
Unknown when board will hear and vote.

The School Board of Columbia County will hold a public hearing on March 27, 2018, at 6:00 p.m., at the School Board Administrative Complex, 372, West Duval Street, Lake City, Florida, on adoption of Instructional materials for K-8 Science and High School Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Science for the Columbia County School District. The public is invited to attend. Action is anticipated at this meeting.

No clear information

February 26th Open public meeting to approve IM Plan
March 13th SB/Public formal protest/approval of recommended materials (Note: I can’t find board meeting minutes available at all anywhere on the website)
March 14th 30 day window to contest adoption opens
April 1st Superintendent notifies FLDOE of IM that will be purchased
April 12th 30 day window to contest adoption ends
April 13th Public hearing for contested IM w/hearing officer (if necessary),%202018/CURRICULUM.htm

3/6 school Board approval (Approved unanimously with no public comment or board debate.)

Our district committees will be recommending the materials listed below for adoption at the regularly scheduled March 2018 board meeting. Board meeting will be 3/20.

2/6 public comments at school Board meeting
2/20 school Board approval
4/17 public hearing of contested materials

No clear information

No clear information

March 13, 2018 Instructional Materials Adoption Plan presentation to School Board
March 14, 2018 Public review period begins.
April 2, 2018 Public review period ends.
April 3, 2018 Public comments will be heard at School Board Meeting.
April 17, 2018 School Board approval of recommended materials.
April 18, 2018 30-day period to contest adoption opens.
May 17, 2018 30-day period to contest adoption ends.
June 1-15, 2018 TBD Public hearing for contested instructional materials (if needed)

No clear information

No clear information

Gulf District Schools

No clear information

No clear information

No clear information

No clear information

No clear information

A public hearing will be held on February 7, 2017.
No other clear information

No clear information

Indian River
an open, noticed School Board hearing to receive public comment on the recommended instructional materials will be held on Tuesday, February 27, 2018, at 6:00 p.m., in the Joe N. Idlette-TEC Room at 6500 57th Street, Vero Beach, Florida.
No one spoke during public hearing period of 2/27 board meeting. Books were adopted by school board vote of 3-1. The no vote related to cost, not content of books.

No clear information

No clear information

The District School Board of Lafayette County will hold a Public Hearing at 6:30 p.m. during their regular school board meeting on February 20, 2018 to receive public comment on the recommended instructional materials (Science Curriculum K-12) for the 2018-2019 school year.
No one spoke during the public hearing 2/20. Board voted to approve textbooks.

The deadline for all reviews and comments for AP is February 28, 2018. The deadline for all reviews and comments is February 18, 2018.
Unknown when board will view or vote.

March 13, 2018 – Public Hearing
March 27, 2018 – Board Adopts Instructional Materials
March 28, 2018 – Objection Form Posted
April 26, 2018 – Deadline to Submit Objections
April 30, 2018 – Hearing Officer hears formal objections
May 22, 2018 – School Board meeting to present hearing officer’s summary report
June 5, 2018 – School Board meeting to authorize purchase

The Leon County School Board will hold a public hearing regarding the science materials submitted for possible board adoption. The hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 27th, at 6:00 p.m., at the Howell Center, 3955 West Pensacola Street, Tallahassee, FL 32304.

No clear information

No clear information

No clear information

No clear information

Marion did their own textbook selection process. See our Florida Citizens for Science blog post:
February 13, 2018 School Board Approval of 8 Recommended Titles
At the 2/13 board meeting, no one spoke during the public hearing. The board voted to approve 5-0 the recommended books. However, three books were pulled from consideration that the board did not vote on.
The books that were removed from consideraton were:
M/J Physical Science- HMH Florida Physical Science: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (According to the presentation given at the board meeting, this book was removed due to concerns a middle school teacher had about its content. Unfortunately, the specifics were not explained at the meeting, so I don’t know what those content concerns were.)
Physical Science Holt Science Spectrum: Physical Science Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (This book was removed from consideration because there was inadequate parent input throughout the review process.)
M/J World History World History: Ancient Civilizations, Florida Edition Cengage Learning (This book was removed from consideration because there was inadequate parent input throughout the review process.)
March 27, 2018 Open Public Hearing on all Formal Objections for the 8 Board Approved Titles (2-13-18) with Hearing Officer, Commissioner Michelle Stone

The public hearing for instructional materials will be held on March 19th at 4:00pm at the School Board Office at 500 E Ocean Blvd, Stuart, FL 34997.

There is a webpage for instructional materials, but it looks to be out of date and not very informative

This is a list of science materials up for adoption but I can’t find a schedule of meetings/hearings.

2/8/18 public meeting to approve annual adoption plan.
2/22/18 public input meeting
Early March all public protests posted on website
3/8/18 public hearing and adoption (board voted unanimously to adopt the textbooks as part of the consent agenda)
4/7/18 end of 30 day protest period

Webpage lists recommended materials but I can’t find a meeting schedule.

Webpage lists social studies as the textbook subject under review this year. I’m not sure if this means the website needs to be updated or if this school district is actually a year behind in textbook adoptions.

Board voted 2/13. No one in the public commented at the meeting. No discussion or debate during the meeting. Adopted.

The School Board of Orange County will accept public comment on the 2017-18 Science Adoption Selections at the February 13th, 2018 regularly scheduled School Board Meeting.

In the Fall of the 2017-2018 school year, Osceola County will begin adopting a new set of science textbooks. A committee of teachers representatives from every school, district resource teachers, and parent representatives will meet to review new texts and provide recommendations to the school board.
A recommendation for the adoption of K-12 Science Instructional materials will be presented to the Osceola County School Board on April 3, 2018.

Palm Beach
First public hearing held Jan 24, 2018.  (no one spoke during the public hearing)
March Board Meeting — Public Hearing at Board Meeting on proposed IM adoptions; Board Meeting to adopt IM agenda items
The District encourages anyone interested in providing input regarding the selection of these textbooks to review student content and submit feedback by February 1, 2018. After all input is reviewed and considered, committees will submit their recommendations for adoption to the School Board for approval.

Public Invited to Review Instructional Materials Being Recommended for District Adoption for K-12 Science

4/17 school Board meeting

2/13 public hearing at school Board meeting (no one spoke during the public hearing)
2/27 school Board approves materials (board voted to approve textbooks as part of the consent agenda)
4/24 meeting to hear objections

Polk County Schools is under the review process for instructional materials in the K-12 science content areas. These materials will be implemented in the 2018-2019 academic school year. Science committees, that are comprised of teachers, administrators, and community members, are working together to create a consensus of the top two choices to present to the Polk County School Board in April. Preview the instructional materials that are under review. If you would like to provide feedback, please fill out the survey.

No clear information

Santa Rosa
No clear information


Sarasota County Schools has determined the list of recommended instructional materials for adoption in Science, Grades 6-12, for implementation beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. These recommendations will be brought to the School Board for possible approval during the regularly scheduled meeting on March 6, 2018.
As required by State Statute, any parent of a student attending Sarasota County Schools, or citizen of Sarasota County, may file a formal objection to any of the recommended materials within 30 days of the School Board’s approval of said materials. Formal objections may be submitted from Wednesday, March 7, 2018 – Thursday, April 5, 2018.

2/20 instructional materials preview night
Unknown when school board will hear and vote.

St. Johns
The St. John’s county school district took action on Feb 13, 2018 to adopt science instructional materials.
A petition period for parents and residents of St Johns county is open from Feb 14-March 15, 2018.

Instructional Materials Adoption

St. Lucie
Approved as part of the consent agenda at the March 6 board meeting.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the state of Florida will be adopting materials for Science. Sumter will review its needs and will begin its selection and adoption process in the second part of the school year. The selected materials will be implemented fall, 2018.
Approved at the February 20 board meeting.

No clear information

Science Stakeholders Focus Group Meeting‐3rd Week of March
Science School Board Open Hearing‐April 3, 2018 at 5:30 at the Taylor County Administration Complex
Open Instructional Materials Meeting MARCH 27, 2018 AT 2:00 P.M. in the Taylor County School District  Administrative Complex PDR All interested individuals in the community are welcome.

No clear information

Board is expected to consider at March 27, 2018 meeting.

Board is likely to consider at March 26, 2018 meeting.

The textbook adoption committee will render its final recommendation in early April. At that time print copies of the recommended titles will be available at the Tivoli Administrative Complex, 145 Park Street, DeFuniak Springs, Florida. Anyone wanting to preview the materials should contact Cathy Hall at 892-1100, extension 1548.

No clear information