A tiny footnote in Wyoming’s budget bill is causing a big stir. The state’s science education standards are due for an overhaul, and the Board of Education had been considering a set of national standards called the Next Generation Science Standards to replace them.
The footnote, slipped into the budget bill at the eleventh hour, bars the Board from adopting or even continuing to review those standards. Those who lobbied for the measure say the national standards are controversial and flawed. Among other things, they teach evolution and presume that climate change is driven by humans.
Board of Education Chair Ron Micheli says while he sympathizes with legislators’ concerns about the standards, he wishes they had expressed that concern differently.
“I’m certainly not trying to impugn the legislature, but in fact they were being addressed, and in fact we were moving forward and trying to make improvements," Micheli says. "I don’t know that it helps to add another layer of checks and balances from the legislature, who have not been involved up to this point.”
Laramie County Representative Mary Throne wrote the language that was signed into law. She says it was a compromise with alternative language that would have banned the Board from doing any work on science standards.
“Basically completely freezing the status quo," she says. "And that concerned me because obviously I have kids in school, and I know that our science standards, like all of our standards, need updating from time to time.”
Throne says the Board can still draw inspiration from the Next Generation Standards, it just can’t adopt them wholesale. Micheli says the ramifications of the legislature’s intervention are still being worked out by the Board's attorney, but that it will likely slow down the process of adopting new standards.