Wisconsin legislation that threatened science education vetoed

WIsconsin State Capitol.

A bill purporting to give parents rights over the education of their children attending public schools, which might have harmed science education in Wisconsin, was vetoed by Governor Tony Evers (D) on March 29, 2024.

Wisconsin's Assembly Bill 510 would, if enacted, have provided that parents have "[t]he right to opt out of a class or instructional materials at the child's school for reasons based on either religion or personal conviction" and "[t]he right to timely notice by the child's school, through a process consistent with school policy, of when a controversial subject will be taught or discussed in the child's classroom," where "controversial subject" is defined as "a subject of substantial public debate, disagreement or disapproval."

Although no scientific topics are explicitly mentioned in the bill, there are frequently requests or demands for students to be excused from evolution instruction, as NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch described in Evolution: Education and Outreach in 2008. And both evolution and climate change are arguably subjects of "substantial public debate, disagreement or disapproval," even though there is clearly a scientific consensus on both (see, for example, the Pew Research Center's description of a 2014 survey of members of the AAAS).

Describing himself as "a former science teacher, principal and state superintendent," Governor Evers wrote (PDF), "I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to sowing division in our schools, which only hurts our kids and learning in our classrooms."


Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.