A bill to provide funding to explore the Next Generation Science Standards passed its third reading in the House of Representatives Monday morning. HB 23 would repeal the budget footnote from last year which prohibited the use of state funds to explore the Next Generations Science Standards, or NGSS. It seems pretty straight forward; can we pay state employees to look into these standards? But if you follow the legislature, you know that the simplest bills can inspire some surprising debates.
One of the more common arguments brought against the bill is that it includes input from education professionals in other states. Though often slipped in with other complaints regarding the NGSS, this argument was clearly meant to paint the standards as part of a wider narrative of national interests interfering with Wyoming’s affairs.
During discussion on the floor, many representatives also bemoaned Wyoming parents wanting a say in the curriculum of their kids. Other legislators, such as Mary Throne (D-Cheyenne), repeatedly reminded their colleagues that educational standards don’t necessarily determine curricula, but are a broader road map of what should be covered.
A few lawmakers did take issue with what exactly the science standards cover. The inclusion of climate change material in the standards was especially concerning to some. “It does kind of fly in the face of mineral interests,” said freshman lawmaker, Scott Clem (R-Gillette) after the morning session which saw the bill pass. The legislator was also displeased with the handling of evolution in the standards, saying that it was taught “as a fact, rather than a theory.”
The offered reasons behind opposition to the NGSS in Wyoming are a particularly thin veil for the fact that some business interests feel threatened by any and all teaching of climate change science. This causes legislators, ever afraid of being labeled as less than ‘business friendly,’ to play ball in any way they can. Even if that ball game involves a room full of lawyers and geologists pretending not to understand 11th grade science.
In the end cooler heads prevailed and the bill which, to be clear, merely opens the door to the consideration of new science standards, was passed. 39 representatives voted to see the bill survive, while 21 voted against it. Though even if the standards are found to be suitable for the state’s students, they will see a new effort to keep them from being adopted.