Oklahoma's antiscience bill blocked

Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393 (PDF), which would empower science denial in the classroom, failed to receive a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on April 27, 2017, the last day on which it could do so, and is therefore blocked — for now.

SB 393 would have allowed science teachers to teach anything they pleased, while preventing responsible educational authorities from intervening. No scientific topics are identified as controversial, but the main sponsor is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who previously introduced similar legislation that targeted evolution.

Previous versions of the bill sponsored by Brecheen — SB 758 in 2013, SB 1765 in 2014, SB 655 in 2015, and SB 1322 in 2016 — uniformly died in the Senate Education Committee. But the committee voted to pass SB 393 in February 2017, and the Senate subsequently passed the bill in March 2017.

SB 393 was expected to be heard by the House Education Committee, but that committee never scheduled a hearing for the bill. Its sponsors withdrew it and submitted it to the General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee instead, which passed it on a 4-3 vote on April 13, 2017.

Among the state-level organizations opposing the bill were the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, and the grassroots pro-science-education group Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. 

Among the national organizations opposing the bill were the National Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Since the bill was not voted down, it is technically still alive, and the Oklahoma legislature may consider it again in the second half of the current legislative session, which begins on February 5, 2018.