BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — The Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly rejected an attempt Monday to repeal a 2008 law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside of the adopted textbook in the classroom — leeway critics say turns science into religion.
It was Sen. Karen Carter Peterson's second unsuccessful effort this session to get the Louisiana Science Education Act removed from state law.
Peterson's repeal bill was rejected by a Senate committee earlier this month. On Monday, she attempted to tack the repeal onto a bill by Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.
Supporters of the law, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, say it promotes critical thinking. Opponents say it allows creationism to be taught in public schools, instead of science-based theories.
"This act should not be on the books," said Peterson, D-New Orleans. "It does not make sense."
Peterson's amendment was jettisoned 5 to 32. Then, LaFleur's bill, which would require local school boards to create foreign language immersion programs under certain circumstances, passed 36-2.
Peterson said the state and national science community, including 70 Nobel prize-winning scientists, say the Louisiana Science Education Act should be repealed because it hurts the state's economy and is confusing to students.
While guidelines adopted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education prohibits promoting religious doctrine in supplemental materials and requires that information presented by "scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence," critics have charged that it opens the door for religion to be taught in science classes.
BESE can prohibit supplemental materials it deems inappropriate, but teachers and local school boards don't need its prior approval to introduce supplemental material.
Sen. Bill Nevers, D-Bogalusa, defended the 2008 law that he sponsored by saying there is "not one word about teaching creationism." He said the law simply gives local school boards the authority to dictate what happens in the classroom.
But Nevers also opposed a section of LaFleur's bill that would repeal the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science law, ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. That law required public schools in the state to give balanced treatment to creation-science and evolution-science in classroom instruction and instructional materials.
Nevers said the law should be kept on the books in case the Supreme Court ever reversed its decision.
LaFleur's bill goes to the House without the repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act — but with the repeal of the creationism law struck down in 1987.
Senate Bills 26 and 205 can be found at http://www.legis.la.gov