Bill Undermining Teaching of Climate Change Introduced in Arizona

Date: December 14th, 2018

Agency: AZ, State

Explanation: Interference with Education

Scientist: Climate, Other

On December 14, 2018, a bill (HB 2002) was pre-filed in the Arizona legislature that would, if enacted, undermine the teaching of climate change in schools. HB 2002 is purportedly aimed at preventing “teachers in taxpayer-supported schools from engaging in political, ideological or religious advocacy in the classroom.” It would require the Arizona State Board of Education, in cooperation with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, to develop an “educator code of ethics and professional responsibility.” The code must, among other things, prevent teachers “[a]dvocating in a partisan manner for any side of a controversial issue” and require “teacher[s] to provide students with materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue . . . and to present both sides in a fair-minded, nonpartisan manner.” HB 2002 defines “controversial issue” broadly to include any issue addressed in an “electoral party platform at the local, state or federal level.”

Science education groups and others have expressed concern that HB 2002 may restrict discussion of climate change in schools. They note that anthropogenic climate change would likely be deemed a “controversial issue” under HB 2002 because it is discussed in the federal Democratic party platform and a number of state platforms. Thus, if HB 2002 is enacted, teachers may be required to present anthropogenic climate change as a disputed theory and discuss alternative discredited theories for the observed rise in temperatures.

Bills similar to HB 2002 have also been introduced in Maine, South Dakota, and Virginia.