Facing public pressure from outraged constituents, Oklahoma lawmaker Dan Fisher (R-Yukon) is pulling a controversial bill, which would have cut off funding for Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History courses. House Bill 1380 passed through a committee hearing on an 11-4 vote on Monday. All 11 votes in favor were cast by Republicans. Each of the four votes against were cast by Democrats. The measure would have eliminated state funding for AP history courses.
Conservative lawmakers complained that the courses presented too many ideas critical of America. They wanted to replace it with history that emphasized American exceptionalism, complete with requiring speeches by Ronald Reagan to be taught.
The proposal, however, caused an almost immediate public backlash, even in the conservative state of Oklahoma. Students and educators criticized the bill. They argued that the AP courses are for college bound students and that they teach American History in its entirety, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The backlash may have caught Fisher off guard. However, today the legislator suggested that he would rewrite the bill. He was not very specific about what changes would be made, but he at least acknowledged that the bill as written had become a problem.
On Wednesday, Fisher stated:
We’re trying to fix the bill. It was very poorly worded and was incredibly ambiguous, and we didn’t realize that, so it’s been misinterpreted. We’re going to clear it up so folks will know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish and it’s not to hurt AP. We’re very supportive of the AP program.
Republican State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is also working with Fisher to rewrite the legislation. She noted that a backlash from teachers, parents and student had made it necessary to go back to the drawing board.
Given the dominance of the Republican Party in Oklahoma, it is likely that attacks against education will continue in the state. However, as Oklahoma voters grow weary of the extremist positions taken by the leaders they elected, public pressure may prevent the most radical anti-education measures from being enacted.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.