Wyoming has become the first state to reject new national science education standards, a decision based in part on some Wyoming lawmakers’ concerns that the standards teach climate change as a scientifically-accepted phenomenon.
Wyoming’s rejection of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) came in the form of a footnote to the state’s budget, which stipulated that “neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated under this section for any review or adoption of the next generation science standards.”
The footnote was co-authored by Wyoming Rep. Matt Teeters (R), who clarified that it was the standards’ inclusion of climate change in curriculums that worried him most.
“[The standards] handle global warming as settled science,” he told the Casper Star Tribune. “There’s all kind of social implications involved in that that I don’t think would be good for Wyoming.”
State Board of Education Chariman Ron Micheli agreed.
“I don’t accept, personally, that [climate change] is a fact,” Micheli said. “[The standards are] very prejudiced in my opinion against fossil-fuel development.”
The standards were developed by 26 states and multiple science and education organizations and provide guidelines for science education that include the teaching of climate science and evolution. These topics are sometimes only taught in specialized classes like Earth Science that aren’t required of all students — the NGSS recommends they be incorporated into general curricula, with climate change education starting in middle school. Proponents of the standards are pushing back against Wyoming’s budget footnote, which became law when Gov. Matt Mead — who has proudly referred to himself as a climate skeptic — signed the budget into law earlier this month. Climate Parents, a group that’s fought for the adoption of the standards in several states, is planning a campaign in Wyoming urging Gov. Mead to adopt science standards that are as thorough as the NGSS and that include climate change in the curriculum.
“Rep. Teeter is clearly willing to prevent Wyoming students from getting a 21st century science education because he’s concerned that kids learning climate science would be harmful to the fossil fuel industry,” Lisa Hoyos, director and co-founder of Climate Parents told ThinkProgress in an email. “It’s clear that his priorities are out of sync with ensuring kids get a strong foundation in science, including the climate science they’ll need to navigate their future.”
The standards, which represent the first major overhaul of science education in the U.S. in more than a decade, have been adopted in 10 states so far, as well as D.C. The standards ran into some opposition in Kentucky, where a review committee in September voted down the state’s plan to incorporate them into its curriculum. But Gov. Steve Beshear intervened, saying he would implement the standards, which were approved by the state last June, “under his own authority.” Texas has also voiced its disapproval of the standards — in 2012, Texas Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill said there was a “zero percent chance” Texas would approve the guidelines.