Family Science Report: State Legislation Affects Organizations and People Beyond Their Borders
2023 has seen a busy legislative season with states introducing bills that could:
impact the Certified Family Life Education (CFLE) credential;
impose bans in higher education that affect academic freedom; and
negatively affects the students and families you serve.
I am often asked why NCFR monitors the legislative sessions across all U.S. states. The answer is because it matters. What happens in one state can affect NCFR, the CFLE credential, and the membership.
NCFR remains a member of the Professional Certification Coalition (PCC) because legislators across the country continue to introduce bills that affect private certifications, like the CFLE credential. The PCC monitored approximately 60 bills during the 2023 legislative session ranging from low to high priority (i.e., risk level). High priority bills have the most potential to negatively impact private certifications. The PCC provides suggested language to the sponsors of these bills to help protect private certifications or offset potential damage. The PCC has been largely successful over the years, and only a few harmful bills have been signed into law. In those cases, the PCC will work with legislative staff during the rulemaking process to lessen the law’s potential negative impact on private certifications. To learn more about NCFR’s involvement with the PCC, see an article I previously wrote in summer 2019 at ncfr.org/pcc.
A New Legislative Challenge
2023 brought about a new challenge directed at private certifications when some states (e.g., Florida) introduced bills that would restrict the first amendment rights of organizations to establish and define their credentials. Bills were also introduced across states (e.g., Missouri, North Carolina) that included “viewpoint restrictions.” Bills identified as restricting viewpoints or as violating the first amendment rights of organizations offering private certification restrict faculty from teaching content on diversity, equity, and inclusion and on human sexual and gender development.
Laws with these kinds of restrictions can negatively affect academic freedom and the CFLE credential. The CFLE credential demonstrates that the certified professional has knowledge, skills, and abilities in ten content areas, three of which include Families and Individuals in Societal Contexts; Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan; and Human Sexuality Across the Lifespan. There are approximately 137 approved academic programs whose faculty teach about family diversity and the impacts race, ethnicity, and culture have on families. These same programs include content on gender development, changing gender roles, gender identity, and human sexuality. In addition to the CFLE-approved programs, there are countless Family Science undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs that teach these same topics.
In some cases, the bills could force the removal of course content from a program that is required as part of the CFLE-content areas. Not teaching the content is counter to the expectations of being a CFLE-approved program and thus an infringement on NCFR’s first amendment right to define the expectations of being a CFLE-approved program.
In other cases, the bills introduced ban state funds from being spent on diversity, equity, and inclusion education and training. Depending on how content is taught within individual CFLE-approved programs, a bill passed containing this language could potentially ban CFLE-approved programs from paying their APR Annual Fee.
As the 2023 legislative sessions continued, several other states introduced similar viewpoint restriction bills, although they did not specifically mention private certifications. However, these viewpoint restriction bills would have the same impact on the CFLE-approved and Family Science programs across the United States. Should these bills be signed into law, academic freedom could be infringed upon, and the content of approved programs could be negatively affected, putting these programs at risk.
One State’s Legislation Can Affect Other States’ Legislation
Bills introduced in one state may impact other states and entities outside of the state boundaries. When bills are introduced that affect academic freedom or the CFLE credential, NCFR views these types of bills as negatively impacting the professions of Family Science.
NCFR Global Ends 3.B. says that NCFR will advocate for Family Science professionals. Given this global end, NCFR signed on to three statements condemning the introduction of Florida House Bill 999. Florida passed the companion bill, Senate Bill 266 which was signed into law on May 15, 2023 (see https://laws.flrules.org/2023/82).
|Florida Bill Would Destroy Higher Education as We Know It — American Association of University Professors|
|AHA Statement Opposing Florida House Bill 999 — American Historical Association|
|The Effort to Undermine Academic Freedom in Florida House Bill 999 — American Council of Learned Societies|
We also released a new Policy Advocacy Toolkit (see https://www.ncfr.org/policy/advocacy-toolkit) to help you, our members, get started on policy advocacy or lobbying in your U.S. state or at the federal level. The toolkit can be used with any issue for which you would like to advocate.
The resources provided in the policy toolkit come in a variety of learning methods: articles, policy briefs, webinars, interactive legislative trackers, and more. Also included in the policy toolkit is an interactive map that can be used to track state-level legislation on academic freedom. Individuals can click on any state to have a closer look at the legislation being introduced.
Bills Introduced During the 2023 Legislative Session Involving Academic Freedom
Keep NCFR Posted
We would love to know what you, our members, are doing in relation to policy, advocacy, or lobbying. Feel free to share with us at [email protected] what you are doing, your challenges, and most importantly, your successes. Let’s hear and learn from one another.