"Controversial issues" bill in Arizona dies

Arizona's Senate Bill 1532 died when the Arizona state legislature adjourned on June 30, 2021. As passed by the Senate, the bill contained no provisions affecting curriculum and instruction, but as amended and passed by the House of Representatives, the bill would have required public school teachers who choose "to discuss controversial issues of public policy or social affairs" to "present these issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective." Teachers out of compliance could be fined up to $5000.

No definition of "controversial" was provided. When the author of the amendment, Michelle Udall (R-District 25), was asked on the floor of the House whether climate change denial specifically would have to receive equal time in the classroom under her bill, she replied, "If they're working on controversial topics they should teach them from diverse and contending perspectives without giving preference to either side and let students draw their own conclusion," according to Capitol Media Services (May 7, 2021).

When Senate Bill 1532 returned to the Senate on May 27, 2021, the Senate decided on a voice vote to concur with the House version of the bill. The bill then failed to pass on a 14-16 vote, but the Senate subsequently decided on a voice vote to reconsider the bill. That reconsideration did not take place. A variety of similar provisions were separately proposed, mainly as amendments to budget bills, but none of them contained the broad language about "controversial issues of public policy or social affairs" or was presented as impinging on science education.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.


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