Our Views: An end run on textbooks

Without knowing the background, there is no apparent reason to object to a bill in the Legislature that would give local school districts more freedom to choose the textbooks they use.

Unless you remember that the sponsor of House Bill 116, Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe, has a history of opposition to standard science textbooks.

Hoffman was among the legislators and critics of evolution who tried to block adoption of standard biology textbooks in 2010. Fortunately, a committee that included responsible educators refused to go along with the objections raised by Hoffman and extremely conservative religious groups. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education backed the experts, despite political pressure from the Louisiana Family Forum, closely allied to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

These latter-day flat-earthers push “alternatives” to evolution — a thinly veiled effort to introduce into public-school classrooms, and substitute for evolutionary science’s discoveries, the Bible’s story of Genesis.

Thus, Hoffman’s bill is not, as he said, about “autonomy for the local school systems.” It is about subverting expert review to allow alternative texts, which we believe will set science education back in this state.

Sadly, the state Department of Education is in league with Hoffman: Erin Bendily, assistant superintendent, said the bill dovetails with the department’s efforts to hold local school leaders accountable for results, without micromanaging them. Hoffman said a state-recommended textbook list still will be developed, and he said he expects 98 percent of books to be taken from that list.

It’s the exceptions he’s working for with this bill, not local control of schools. A Zachary science teacher, Tammy Wood, said Hoffman’s bill “opens the door for the inclusion of substandard materials to be purchased with unlimited public dollars without appropriate state oversight.”

She is right. Those few exceptions allowed by the Hoffman bill could leave Louisiana children with the mistaken impression than the Earth is only about 6,000 years old — one of the theories pushed by anti-evolution groups.

Hasn’t Louisiana been embarrassed enough by creationism and its successive versions intended to be more politically saleable? We urge lawmakers to reject the Hoffman bill and other efforts to push political and religious agendas in science education.