Local proponents back new Climate Science Students Bill of Rights
— July 10, 2014
Advocacy groups that took action in response to the Wyoming Legislature’s stealth move — an amendment to the state’s budget bill — to censor K-12 science standards have launched a new tool they hope will help convince state lawmakers around the nation to think twice before following in the footsteps of Wyoming lawmakers.
The Climate Science Students Bill of Rights is an effort to ensure that the nation’s K-12 students receive the highest quality science education “as determined by educators, free from ideological or political interference,” according to collaborating organizations Union of Concerned Scientists, Climate Parents, and Alliance for Climate Education.
In a conference call with the press on Thursday, representatives said it’s immoral for politicians to allow coordinated climate science denial to obscure the best science standards in public schools.
“Curricula should be created by experts, not politicians,” said Melanie Fitzpatrick, a glaciologist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We need informed citizens and policymakers who understand and respect the science.”
At the end of the Wyoming Legislature’s 2014 budget session in March, an amendment was added to the state’s budget bill blocking the Wyoming board of education from spending any resources to consider Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). That stealth legislative move to avoid full debate was an affront to the state board of education which was prepared to accept NGSS after a committee of education and science professionals spent 18 months researching science standards and gave NGSS its unanimous recommendation.
Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle), who authored the amendment, said he did it because NGSS acknowledges man’s role in climate change, and he considers that an affront to the fossil fuel industry that is responsible for much of the state’s revenue.
The budget amendment maneuver, and reasons for it, drew the attention of Climate Parents, a national organization that formed to advocate for NGSS and the highest quality science standards in education. It also prompted the mobilization of local advocates, including Marguerite Herman, a Wyoming parent and educator who formed Wyoming for Science Education.
“Thousands of people in Wyoming and elsewhere were appalled that the deliberate, professional, thorough process of writing quality standards for Wyoming students was stopped by politicians who – according to their own words – were worried about climate science,” said Herman, who participated in the call with reporters on Thursday. “They aren’t convinced about greenhouse gases, and they worry about seeming ungrateful for our fossil fuels industry. And for that they were willing to bar science standards that are recognized as being the best for Wyoming schools. How can students learn science with gaping omissions – climate science?”
Petitions and campaigns were launched to encourage the Wyoming state board of education to fight back, and on July 1 the board voted 10-1 on a resolution asking the Wyoming Legislature to rescind the budget amendment blocking NGSS. The board says it will not take action to update the state’s K-12 science education standards — already long overdue for an update — until the Legislature rescinds the amendment. The Legislature likely will not take up the issue again until it meets in January.
“We were really alarmed about what we saw in Wyoming this last spring,” said Lisa Hoyos, director and co-founder of Climate Parents.
Hoyos said the Wyoming Legislature’s unseemly tactic to censor education science standards via a budget amendment is one reason Climate Parents and other organizations are trying to head off similar attempts. They hope a Climate Science Students Bill of Rights will help support students, teachers, parents and elected officials who want to leave science education to professional scientists and educators, and not politicians.
Over the past several months Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, as well as other professed skeptics among Wyoming’s elected officials, have refined their skepticism of climate change. Mead has said it doesn’t really matter if he’s skeptical about man’s role in climate change because, “I’m not skeptical on terms of what the markets are doing. As I mentioned earlier, we see the markets on coal being hurt. And so, in terms of markets, I think there is an urgency for the state and the federal government to help find as many solutions for coal as possible.”
Does it matter if elected officials don’t understand or acknowledge man’s role in climate change?
Fitzpatrick said it absolutely does matter, because politicians like Gov. Mead are perpetuating the false debate about whether climate science is valid.
“The question about what to do (about climate change) is valid,” she said. “They are preventing people from having that much important debate about what to do about it.”
— Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. He has covered energy and natural resource issues in Wyoming for 15 years. You can reach him at (307) 267-3327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Dustin on Twitter at @DBleizeffer
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