Idaho House panel OKs scrubbing science standards

February 7, 2018

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho House panel on Wednesday agreed to scrub some references to climate change while approving new science standards for the state’s K-12 schools.

Republicans on the House Education Committee voted 12-4 Wednesday to remove language detailing the environmental effects of humans using energy and fuels derived from the natural resources — such as air pollution from burning of fossil fuels or erosion due to deforestation. The panel also moved to remove all supplemental standards that educators, scientists and other school officials had spent months developing to help implement the new science standards.

“I learned a lot about these standards over the last year,” said Rep. Scott Syme, a Republican from Caldwell, who led the effort to amend the standards. “When you have conclusions in standards, it stifles inquiry. And we don’t want to do that.”

Last week, Syme told a reporter that he wouldn’t mind if a student left the Idaho public school system believing the Earth was flat as long as the student got to that conclusion on their own and not because someone else told them.

“I want to support these standards as written,” said Rep. Patrick McDonald, the only Republican to vote with the committee’s three Democratic members to keep the standards whole. “What I don’t want to do is not support them. There has been a lot work involved in putting these together.”

However, it’s unclear if the House panel’s decision to remove the variety of sections on Wednesday will have any lasting impact. That’s because the science standards are being submitted to lawmakers as a proposed administrative rule and not a legislative bill.

Administrative rules use a different process than legislation. Notably, if one committee amends a proposed rule — for example, scrubs sections of the science standards — that change is only enacted if the same panel from the other chamber also adopts the same changes.

This means all eyes are now on the Senate Education Committee to see if members will undo the House’s decision by simply adopting the standards as a whole. The committee also has the option to reject the standards, which would force the state to start over and draft a new set of robust science standards.

The Senate has not yet scheduled when they’ll vote on the science standards.

This is the third year in a row Idaho lawmakers have balked at adopting permanent changes to the state’s K-12 science standards because of references to climate change.

The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists agree the world is warming, mainly due to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Most of the increase in temperature comes from man-made sources, including the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, deforestation and livestock raising.

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