Eastern Idahoans rail against changes to science standards

IDAHO FALLS — Their numbers were few, but their message was clear: Lawmakers should leave the state’s embattled K-12 science standards alone.

“I’m here tonight because I’m angry and outraged,” said Jerry Jayne, 85, of Idaho Falls. “All of (the science standards) should be put back, intact.”

The State Department of Education rounded out its post-legislative tour through Eastern Idaho on Thursday, with a stop in Idaho Falls. The events were designed to school local educators on the 2017 legislative session and gather feedback on rule changes pertaining to school buses, special education and science standards.

Only five patrons showed up to offer public comments, but the science standards still prompted a heated discussion.

During the 2017 session, Idaho lawmakers edited the standards to delete five references to human impact on the environment and climate change. First-year Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, said the standards ignored positive human contributions to the environment, such as the development of clean, renewable energy sources.

Now state officials are making the rounds once again, soliciting comments and suggestions before the 2018 Legislature revisits the standards.

On Thursday night, speakers accused lawmakers of dithering.

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“Other than ideology or ignorance, I don’t know why anyone would reject these,” Jayne said.

On Wednesday in Fort Hall, a room full of speakers similarly questioned lawmakers’ rationale for rejecting the standards.

“We had about 25 people at that meeting,” said SDE director of academic services Scott Cook. “All but one was there to voice concerns about the science standards.”

About 20 of Idaho’s most decorated science teachers, scientists and other professionals developed the standards presented to this year’s Legislature. Most of the team has been crafting the standards since 2015. The 2016 Legislature quietly rejected the first draft. Some lawmakers said the state failed to solicit adequate public comment, even though the team followed the appropriate rules and laws.

Cook and fellow SDE staffer Helen Price said they’ll take feedback from this year’s roadshow back to the team that wrote the standards. After the team reworks the wording, the State Board of Education will review the standards in August. The final decision rests with the 2018 Legislature.

If the new version doesn’t go through, Cook said, the state will revert back to science standards approved almost a decade ago.

Click here to see the five references deleted by lawmakers this year, and here to see Idaho’s temporary science standards.

State officials are accepting online comments on the standards until April 27.

The academic standards public meetings will continue into next week. (All meetings run from 6 to 8 p.m., local time.)

  • Tuesday, Boise, Red Lion Downtowner, Selway/Sawtooth Metting Room, 1800 W. Fairview Ave.
  • Wednesday, Lewiston, Lewis-Clark State College, Clearwater River Meeting Room, 500 Eighth Ave.
  • Thursday, Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene Resort, Coeur d’Alene Meeting Room, 115 S. Second St.