BOISE – Idaho lawmakers heard from more than two dozen people over two days of hearings on proposed school science standards. All supported adopting the new standards, though some lawmakers continue to resist.
Last year, lawmakers approved the standards only after removing five sections regarding climate change; those now have been revised and are back before lawmakers again.
“Science is not about what we wish the world would be. It describes how the world actually is,” Sharon Bosley of Coeur d’Alene told the House Education Committee, urging support for the new standards. “Robust science standards will help Idaho’s economy by preparing students for professional careers. These students who are proficient in science will then become leaders and employees who can understand and use science in their careers.”
Trent Clark, a former Idaho Republican Party chairman, told the lawmakers, “I represent Monsanto, an employer of roughly 1,000 Idahoans, most of whom are in the field of science. I’m here to support these revised science standards as presented by the Department of Education. … They describe the very kind of knowledge that we will interview for when we interview an Idahoan … to get a job. And if in fact they do not possess that kind of knowledge, they would be ill-fitted for a job at Monsanto.”
Veronica Richmond, age 12, told the lawmakers, “My generation, we are the leaders, the innovators, the inventors and problem solvers of Idaho tomorrow. … We need these standards … so that we will be prepared and equipped.
“Pulling out these science standards is pulling out valuable chunks of my precious education.”
Leslie Elliott, a Boise State University professor with a PhD in physics and the author of two science textbooks, said, “You’re legislators, not scientists.” She said, “You can’t reasonably stay current” on every scientific development.
“What I’m asking as a committee is that you trust decisions about science standards to people who do, who have developed this set of standards in the best interest of our students and this state.”
Though the panel had been scheduled to make a decision Friday, its chair, Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, announced at the start of Friday morning’s hearing that the decision would be delayed until later, and Friday’s hearing would be solely to hear testimony. Twenty-two people testified, all in support of the standards. A day earlier seven spoke, also all in support.
Throughout the hearings, VanOrden stopped speakers who spoke about climate change, saying the hearing was just about the standards – not about climate change. She gaveled down one geologist, though he was citing a specific clause in the standards about climate change, and cut off his testimony.
VanOrden didn’t say when the committee would decide.
“We will be taking it up in the future again to take action on it,” she said.
Among those testifying were scientists, teachers, professors, engineers, students, firefighting officials, business representatives and more.
When a committee of teachers and others convened by the state Department of Education held hearings on the revised version of the standards last spring, it received more than 1,000 comments, all but five in favor.
State Superintendent of Schools Sherri Ybarra said, “I thought it was impressive, and I think that it shows the support for all the hard work that the committee for the new standards put in.”
Her hope, she said, is that lawmakers will “support the standards.”
“The feeling is good – the testimony was good,” Ybarra said. “Now let’s just wait and see.”