KY Legislators Block, Then Governor OKs, New Science Standards

As a few commenters were quick to guess yesterday, a subcommittee of the Kentucky legislature did indeed vote to block adoption of Next Generation Science Standards. On a 5-1 vote, the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee sought to overrule the Kentucky Board of Education. The subcommittee tried to wipe away all the hard work that Kentucky’s teachers and scientists invested in creating these standards, along with top scientists and teachers from across the country.

Governor Beshear
Kentucky Governor Stephen L. Beshear

Fortunately, Governor Steven Beshear acted quickly to protect science education. He has the final say on the regulations implementing NGSS, and shortly after the subcommittee vote, he approved those regulations. Kentucky now officially joins California, Kansas, Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island as an NGSS early-adopter. Beshear’s spokesman explained the move by saying the Governor “views these standards as a critical component in preparing Kentuckians for college and the workforce. Therefore, as provided by law, he will implement the regulations notwithstanding the finding of deficiency.”

Though they would soon be celebrating, science advocates in attendance were aghast immediately after the meeting. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told a reporter in the hallway: “I think it was pretty much a political vote. I don't think there is any meat to these issues that we haven't fully addressed.”

Rob Bevins, president of Kentuckians for Science Education, was equally disappointed. He told the paper “I wouldn't be surprised if we're on the Daily Show tomorrow.”

“I'm still in disbelief,” a scientist who attended the hearing told me. “The arguments our side put forth were exponentially more powerful than theirs. I'm getting ready to go to a meeting at UK [the University of Kentucky] and I'm going to bring it up the fact that we need to be more active.”

Indeed we do. The Lexington Herald-Leader explains “the regulation could be killed by the full General Assembly when it returns in January.” That gives time for science advocates in Kentucky to thank Governor Beshear for his help today, and to reach out to their legislators before the new session starts in a few months. This is also a wake-up call to science education advocates in other states: NGSS adoption won’t be a walk in the park. In Kentucky and elsewhere, anti-science activists are spinning conspiracy theories and plotting ways to block these new standards, and we need to be ready.

Josh Rosenau
Short Bio

Josh Rosenau is a former Programs and Policy Director at NCSE.