Attack on science standards in West Virginia

West Virginia's House Bill 4014, which passed the House of Delegates on February 26, 2016, would, if enacted, prevent the state board of education from implementing the state science standards adopted in 2015 — and there are indications that the treatment of climate science in the standards is part of the motivation.

The bill was originally aimed at repealing West Virginia's standards for mathematics and English language arts, which resemble the Common Core standards. When the bill was in the House Education Committee, however, a proposed committee substitute, which would have added a repeal of the science standards, was under discussion.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail (February 11, 2016), Jim Butler (R-District 14), the lead sponsor of HB 4014, "said the science standards dealing with climate change — only a few lines of West Virginia's full 70-page science standards document — also are a concern. He has said he doesn't believe humans' greenhouse gas emissions are a major driver of climate change."

The committee subsequently "passed a bipartisan version Saturday morning that wouldn't repeal the state's K-12 education standards," the Gazette-Mail reported (February 20, 2016). But when the bill came to the House floor, Michel Moffatt (R-District 22) moved to amend the bill to block the science standards as well.

According to the Gazette-Mail (February 25, 2016), Frank Deem (R-District 10), speaking in favor of the amendment, said, "there's nothing that upsets me more than the idea that it's a proven fact that climate change is man made," adding that he does not "want our children to be taught from the first grade how bad fossil fuels are."

Moffatt's amendment was adopted on a 57-40 vote, and the final version of HB 4014 was subsequently adopted on a 73-20 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate. In the meantime, as the Gazette-Mail noted, "Educators across the state have been preparing to start teaching the science standards ... next school year."

As NCSE previously reported, there was a controversy in 2015 over the West Virginia science standards when the state board of education sought to downplay their treatment of climate change. The most deleterious of the proposed modifications were later withdrawn, although the original language of the standards was not fully restored.

"West Virginia's children, like children everywhere, need to learn about the science of climate change," commented NCSE's executive director Ann Reid, "since it is they who will have to live in a world that we have been warming. For their sake, West Virginia's senate needs to reject the proposed repeal of the state science standards."