Wyoming blocks NGSS over climate

A footnote in Wyoming's budget for 2014-2016 precludes the use of state funds "for any review or adoption" of the Next Generation Science Standards, and one of its authors acknowledges that the NGSS's treatment of climate change is a reason for the prohibition.

In allocating funds to the state department of education, House Bill 1 (PDF, p. 55) provides, "neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated under this section for any review or adoption of the next generation science standards as developed by the national science teachers association, the American association for the advancement of science, the national research council, and 'Achieve'" (capitalization as in original). The bill was signed into law on March 5, 2014.

The exact requirements of the provision are unclear, the Casper Star-Tribune (March 14, 2014) observes: "Some say the provision, which came through a last-minute footnote, blocks the state from considering any part" of the NGSS. "Others, including the provision's author, say it prevents the wholesale adoption of the standards as they are written." As a result, legal staff at the state board of education, the state department of education, and the legislature are attempting to clarify its meaning.

What is clear, however, is that the NGSS were targeted in part because of their treatment of global climate change (which is one of four sub-ideas in the core idea of Earth and Human Activity at both the middle school and high school level). Matt Teeters (R-District 5), who coauthored the provision, told the Star-Tribune that the NGSS "handle global warming as settled science," adding, "There's all kind of social implications involved in that that I don't think would be good for Wyoming." 

Pete Gosar, a member of the state board of education, disagreed, commenting, "Over the last few years in Wyoming, we’ve injected politics into education time and again and it has been less than successful. .. And so here we go again. " Lisa Hoyos of Climate Parents defended the NGSS's treatment of global climate change, commenting, "It's not ideological. ... It's peer-vetted science. ... As a parent, it’s very important for me to ensure that my kids are taught vetted, peer-tested scientific content."

There was resistance in the state to the treatment of global climate change in the NGSS before the provision was passed. The Star-Tribune reports that, despite the unanimous recommendation of a committee of science specialists to adopt the NGSS, the state board of education "asked the committee to revise the standards to present climate change as a theory, instead of a fact, and to present the benefits mineral extraction has brought Wyoming."

So far, the NGSS have been adopted in ten states — California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia, collectively containing a fifth of public school students in the country.