After taking public comment Tuesday and without contacting the committee that developed Idaho’s proposed new science standards, today the House Education Committee voted 12-3 to remove five passages relating to climate change prior to passing the remainder of the standards. After the legislature rejected a proposed set of standards last year, a modified set of standards was developed to mollify some legislators regarding climate change references. The committee that developed those standards included IEA member Melyssa Ferro and other decorated science educators. That group also sought extensive public input before completing the proposed standards, which were presented to the House Education Committee earlier this week.
Rep. Scott Syme (R-Caldwell) initiated the removal of five passages relating the temperature of the earth and the human impact on climate change, citing concerns that “both sides of the picture” were not being represented. After some discussion, the committee voted along party lines to accept the proposed standards—minus the language about climate change. IEA members Rep. John McCrostie (D-Garden City) and Rep. Sally Toone (D-Gooding) voted against the removal of references to climate change, biodiversity and human impact on the environment. “The Science Standards Committee did a great job of addressing the concerns from a year ago and developing a set of standards that were based on scientific inquiry and accepted science,” said Toone. “And we heard no opposition to those standards when they were presented to us on Tuesday, so to turn around and remove parts of them before passing them is inappropriate.”
In her reaction, Ferro expressed disappointment about the committee’s decision to remove key elements of the standards that her grouped developed. “As one of the co-chairs of the Idaho science standards committee, I am happy to see that we have finally adopted a set of standards that makes science into a verb instead of a noun. These standards will create engaging opportunities for Idaho students to interact with science content over the next school year. With that being said, I must also express my disappointment that the House Education Committee took a document that had been polished and fine-tuned by a group of award-winning, science education professionals over the course of a two-year period and carved out large chunks of important scientific fundamentals during the course of an hour-and-a-half long meeting. This was done without consulting with any science educators and runs contrary to the overwhelming feedback that was received over the last few months from scientists and engineers in Idaho. This shows a level of disrespect for the knowledge and professionalism of the committee which the State Department tasked with this important job.”
Representative Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) who served on the House Education Committee last year, issued a strongly worded rebuke of the committee’s decision to remove selected content from the standards. “The last three years have been the hottest in human history, and the rate of warming will only increase. Idaho is facing a future of water shortages, record-breaking fire activity, crop loss, and wildlife die-offs. It is deeply disappointing that the Idaho Legislature not only continues to deny basic scientific facts, but now insists that we misinform our youth as well. School should be a place where facts are shared, not suppressed. 72% of Idahoans and 97% of scientists believe that climate change is happening, and it is past time for the Legislature to join them in facing reality. Not only do we owe it to our children to teach them 21st Century science, but we owe it to the farmers, foresters and citizens of Idaho to take this issue seriously and not bury our heads in the sand. Livelihoods are at stake.”
State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra told the House Education Committee that she “can live with the changes”. The Senate Education Committee is expected to take the up the original standards sometime next week. You can read the five passages that were removed, along with additional information, in this story by Idaho Education News.
Reducing the Supermajority Threshold for Local Bonds?
Representative Mat Erpelding (D-Boise) has introduced a measure that would lower the vote threshold on bond measures from 66% to 60% to help local authorities bond to afford new building projects and facility upgrades. The proposal is a result of a 2015 resolution from the Idaho School Boards Association. Many districts are not able to reach the supermajority threshold needed for bond passage resulting in the inability to build new schools or repair existing buildings. Erpelding’s proposed constitutional amendment must receive a two thirds vote in both the House and Senate for passage. Then the proposal would need to garner support from Idaho voters in the next general election.