Climate change education legislation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin's Senate Bill 761 would, if enacted, authorize the state superintendent of public instruction to adopt model academic standards related to climate change that "incorporate an understanding of climate, the interconnected nature of climate change, the potential local and global impacts of climate change, and individual and societal actions that may mitigate the harmful effects of climate change."

Although Wisconsin's current state science standards are based on the same framework on which the Next Generation Science Standards are based, their treatment of climate change is substantially worse, receiving the grade of C- for their treatment of climate change in "Making the Grade?" — the 2020 report from NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund — as compared to the NGSS's grade of B+.

Senate Bill 761 would also authorize the superintendent to provide grants to or contract with state agencies or non-profit organizations to develop climate change curriculum resources and to assist local school boards in developing climate change curriculum and curriculum resources. All these resources would be required to align with any model standards related to climate change adopted by the superintendent.

The bill also would provide $500,000 over two fiscal years to fund the grants and a new position in the department of public instruction. Introduced on December 17, 2021, by Chris Larson (D-District 7) with six of his colleagues in the Senate and cosponsored by Sondy Pope (D-District 80) with twenty of her colleagues in the House of Representatives, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

On January 4, 2022, the identical Assembly Bill 783 was introduced by Sondy Pope with twenty of her colleagues in the House of Representatives and cosponsored by Chris Larson and six of his colleagues in the Senate, and then referred to the House Committee on Colleges and Universities. Clean Wisconsin and Wisconsin Conservation Voters have endorsed AB 783 and SB 761, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council has also endorsed SB 761.

[Updated on January 5, 2022, by the addition of the last paragraph.]

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.