Idaho votes to remove climate change from new science education standards

Despite public testimony in support of climate science, Idaho lawmakers vote to remove key references from new standards.

An Idaho high school teacher introduces the concept of climate change by taking his students to the forest.
(CREDIT: Rajah Bose for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
An Idaho high school teacher introduces the concept of climate change by taking his students to the forest. (CREDIT: Rajah Bose for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, lawmakers in Idaho voted to adopt new science standards for the state, but chose to remove key references to climate science.

The vote came just days after public testimony from students and teachers overwhelmingly supported including climate science in the public school standards.

At what point do we trust our teachers?” Rep. Sally Toone, a Democrat who voted against removing the climate references, said during a House Education Committee hearing. “We have great teachers and they have spent thousands of hours on this document.”

The document, known as the Idaho Content Standards, includes key metrics for students from kindergarten through high school. Lawmakers voted to remove all supporting science content included in the standards, which often went into more detail about human-caused climate change. The lawmakers also voted to remove one paragraph from the state’s performance standards that asked students to be able to “describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment.” Examples of how fuels affect the environment included “air pollution from burning of fossil fuels.”


Rep. Scott Syme, a Republican who proposed eliminating the performance standard as well as all supporting content, argued that the standard forced students to come to a particular conclusion rather than draw their own conclusions based on evidence.

When we heard all the testimony, it was clear that all the students want to do inquiry and all the teachers want to move to this inquiry based type of learning and I think that is just spectacular,” Syme said on Wednesday. “My problem with the one paragraph was that it lead to conclusions. When you have conclusions in standards, it stifles inquiry.”

Previously, Syme had said that he didn’t care “if the students come up with a conclusion that the earth is flat – as long as it’s their conclusion, not something that’s told to them.”

Students in Idaho publicly decried attempts to restrict climate science in classrooms, telling lawmakers that political ideology was placing students at a disadvantage for future jobs in science and technology.


“Science education shouldn’t be a political issue,” Cassandra Kenyon, a senior at Timberline High School in Boise who spoke in support of adopting standards that include climate change, told lawmakers at a public hearing last week. “Education is being censored due to political fears, and students are the ones that are suffering.”

Last year, Idaho voted to remove five paragraphs from the science standards that mentioned climate change and mankind’s role in the crisis, becoming the first state to successfully remove climate science from public education through legislative action. Both Texas and West Virginia have restricted what students can learn about climate science through their state Boards of Education.

In 2017, nine states considered bills that would either restrict the kind of climate science taught to students, or encourage teachers to teach alternative sides to the climate debate. Alabama was the only state to successfully pass its bill, which encourages “academic freedom regarding scientific evidence subjects.”