When Idaho lawmakers scrubbed all mentions of human-caused climate change from the state’s education standards last year, they faced a swift backlash from teachers, parents and students who said that censoring science would leave students disadvantaged, jobs unfilled and the state unprepared for the future.
On Wednesday, the Idaho House Education Committee approved a revised set of standards that included some discussion of climate change. But the committee cut a section on the environmental impact of nonrenewable sources of energy and removed supporting content for standards that contained multiple references to human-driven warming.
The House committee’s decision is not final. The state’s Senate Education Committee will have a chance to weigh in, and the standards will need final approval from both chambers.
The sections on climate change that were cut had been watered down to satisfy lawmakers, and science education advocates had hoped the House committee would accept the revised standards in full. They said they were disappointed but not surprised by the committee’s decision.
“The way I see it is, it disregards science and#the scientists who are out there doing the work,” said Erin Stutzman, a science teacher at Timberline High School in Boise who has been following the battle between over the guidelines. Last week, a number of Ms. Stutzman’s students testified at a committee hearing and called for lawmakers to approve the revised standards in their entirety.
“It’s about our children’s future and leaving our planet a better place,” Ms. Stutzman said.
She and other teachers said they worried that without the supporting content — which is supposed to guide teachers in assigning coursework — teachers may simply choose not to teach climate change, putting their students at a disadvantage.
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“A lot of our teachers are not experts in science, they’re generalists,” said Jacob Smulkowski, a science teacher in Post Falls. “Teachers look to those standards for guidance.” Under the House-approved standards, teachers will need to collaborate and “figure out how to teach these things” as best they can, Mr. Smulkowski said.
The education committee, which is controlled by Republicans, voted 12-4 in favor of Representative Scott Syme’s motion to approve all but one of the standards and scrap the supporting materials. Mr. Syme has led the committee’s efforts to reject parts of the standards referring to climate change.
“When you have conclusions in standards, it stifles inquiry, and I don’t think that’s the intent of the department,” Mr. Syme said at the committee meeting Wednesday. He declined a request for an interview.
Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, described the lawmakers’ decision to remove parts of the guidelines “wholesale” as “a continuation of the assault” on the inclusion of climate change in science standards in Idaho.