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January29

Scientific info bill sent to House

After consecutive years of being left to freeze on the 41st legislative day, a bill allowing teachers to theorize in the classroom on the strengths and weaknesses of scientific topics was warmed up to by Senators.

 

Senate Bill 55, which protects the teaching of certain scientific information, passed the Senate Education committee on a 4-3 vote and then the Senate on a 23-12 vote.

 

Many in the public education community raised objections and concerns about the bill’s message during its committee hearing.

 

“The education community view is this is harmful,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany said during his opposition testimony.

 

“I think Senate Bill 55 is a solution looking for a problem.”

 

ASBSD was joined by S.D. Department of Education, SASD, SDEA and South Dakota’s Large School Group testifying in opposition of the bill, with the continued points being that the issue can already be addressed at the local level and the bill could lead to a lawsuit for a district.

 

“The curriculum has been and continues to be decided by the local (school) boards,” DOE Legal Counsel Brett Arenz told committee members.

 

SB 55 prime sponsor Sen. Jeff Monroe was asked whether he had addressed the issue with his local school board in Pierre to which he said he had not.

 

Sen. Monroe said SB 55 was a “citizen’s bill” originating from comments and complaints he’d received from teachers about not being able to address certain scientific topics. Sen. Deb Soholt countered that in her discussions with teachers on the topic they did not share similar fears and Sen. Monroe later noted “there’s diversity of opinion” among teachers about whether this is problem.

 

Pogany added that in his travels across the state speaking with board members and administrators “this topic as never once come up as problem.” He did share the concern that SB 55 could open the door for litigation.

 

Sen. Joshua Klumb held there were a lot of “what ifs” shared during the bill’s hearing and was unfazed by the apprehension because the legislature could come back and repeal the bill next year if a district were sued.

 

“There is a standing from the courts that we need to follow,” Pogany said. “You will subject school districts to expensive litigation (through the bill).”

 

SB 55 now heads to the House for review. For updates, check the ASBSD BlogTwitter feed and Bill Tracker.

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