Bill Undermining Teaching of Climate Change Introduced in Maine
On February 1, 2019, a bill (LD 589) was pre-filed in the Maine legislature that would, if enacted, undermine the teaching of climate change in public schools. LD 589 is purportedly aimed at preventing “teachers in public schools from engaging in political, ideological or religious advocacy in the classroom.” It would require the Maine State Board of Education to adopt rules that, 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.” LD 589 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 LD 589 may restrict discussion of climate change in schools. They note that anthropogenic climate change would likely be deemed a “controversial issue” under LD 589 because it is discussed in the federal Democratic party platform and a number of state platforms. Thus, if LD 589 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.
On February 28, the Maine House of Representatives Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs unanimously voted not to recommend LD 589.