Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-of West Monroe Louisiana, is attempting for what will now be the third time in his political career to cunningly introduce a bill that, if passed, would allow creationist materials to be introduced to students at Louisiana public schools.
Hoffman is a known supporter of creationism in the schools of his constituents. In 2008 he was the assistant superintendent of the Ouachita Parish, which openly supported the Louisiana Family Forum’s (“LFF”) policies. Gene Mills, the executive director of LFF, stated that when it came to what was taught in science classrooms in their state the LFF believed that “scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory.” That year Hoffmann tried pushing along legislation similar to what he is currently endeavoring with HB 116. He did the same in 2011.
HB 116 seeks unlimited funds for materials decided on by school authorities at the local level. In its own words, “The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education shall not limit the amount or percentage of state or local funds the governing authority of a public elementary or secondary school may expend on the purchase of textbooks and other instructional materials needed to teach state content standards.” This bill would also remove the phrase ‘approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’ in reference to the homeschooling texts that the state is required to provide for children and families in an approved home school situation. Why would they want to remove this key phrase? Perhaps to require the state to fund textbooks and curriculum not approved by the Board of Education?
What types of new textbooks and material are conservative lawmakers seeking to add to classrooms in Louisiana’s public schools? HB 116 states that if approved, they will use funds to purchase material that, “Promotes an understanding of the history and values of the people of the United States and Louisiana, including the free enterprise system, private property constitutional liberties, democratic values, and traditional standards of moral values.”
The House Bill presented by Hoffman would repeal the current law ensuring any and all textbooks and supplemental materials added to the curriculum are reviewed by the Department of Education and posted on their site for public review. The new House Bill also repeals the funding for textbooks and supplies that is currently provided for through the same avenue as textbooks for Elementary and Secondary school, leaving many students without necessary educational tools. The current bill in place also requires all textbook publishers to provide a disc with Braille translations so that school districts can provide contextually identical textbooks for blind students. HB 116 would remove that requirement entirely with no new provisions made.
From HB 116: “Present law requires that textbooks and materials be made available for public inspection at DOE during regular office hours. Provides for textbook review procedures, including citizen participation, the composition of textbook committees, and the placement of proposed textbooks in various public library branches throughout the state. Proposed law repeals present law.”
So why would Hoffman and others seek to make the accessibility to review materials children are reading in their constituents’ public schools so difficult for parents and other interested parties to review? Could the motive be to keep the public in the dark about conservatives implementing their pseudo-scientific agenda of subjecting their state’s children to creationism? There are many who certainly think so, including Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Dubberly who has “expressed concern that HB116 could permit adoption of controversial books on evolution and other subjects.” And certainly there is the fact that Hoffman and others advocating for this bill have a history of attempting numerous times to do just that.
It looks like history is repeating itself with the conception of HB 116 and one can only hope that this proposed bill does not pass so that the children in the state of Louisiana can remain free of the biased motivations of creationists’ constant maneuvering to inject misinformation and pseudo-science into their curriculum.