Senate approves history teaching bill over administration objections

Over the objections of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, the Senate has approved a bill requiring public schools to give more teaching time to American and Tennessee history. The vote Tuesday was 29-0 with Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle abstaining.

The measure (SB1266) was sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, who said many students lack even basic knowledge of governmental history and current law – which calls for teaching “civics” and not specifically history – is inadequate.

The Haslam administration had issued a “flag,” or statement of objections, to the bill late during last year’s session through the state Department of Education, said David Smith, spokesman for the governor.

It did so, however, without a formal “flag letter” stating those objections at the time as usually done, he said, and there was instead only a “verbal flag.”

A formal flag letter was issued Wednesday with the bill still awaiting action in a House committee, where it is sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville.

“This bill would mandate a specific curriculum through state code, and we believe that curriculum issues should be left to the State Board of Education through the approval of academic standards and to local school boards through approval of the curriculum itself.,” said Kelli Gauthier, spokeswoman for the Department of Education, in an email explaining administration objections.