The fix is in, and all Idaho students are the losers

Under cover of Covid and darkness, 14 extremist legislators and the Idaho State Department of Education [SDE] colluded June 10 to eviscerate the recently adopted 2018 Science Content Standards. On March 9, 2020, the 14 legislators sent a manifesto to the governor, SDE and State Board demanding the replacement of math, English, and Science standards to please the conspiracy riddled radical GOP. Mind you, this extreme position is not supported by either the Legislature [there was no vote] or the people of Idaho. Specifically for science, their letter asks for removal of all “the supporting content [curriculum],” the bone of contention for the last three years, from the incorporated by reference document.

But the performance standards and supporting content go together like peanut butter and jelly; they can’t be separated without causing great harm to the unity and integrity of the standards and the cause of rigorous science education. They are called “content standards” for a reason, and they just erased the science content by fiat. In this case the supporting content provides the context within which students perform, and all content standards involve interaction between what students should know [content] and what they should be able to do [performance]. It is not curriculum, either. Curriculum is how standards are taught-lesson plans, resources, texts, and scope and sequence. But they are only the education “experts” in the legislature. Why should they be expected to know this?

The State Department wrote in Board of Education documents for the June 10, 2020, Board Of Education meeting that the supporting content is “not necessary to include with the standards” and that it is merely “a technical correction.” This does not pass the reality or smell test. Illegal is what it is. Idaho Code says an agency can amend a rule to “correct typographical errors, transcription errors, or clerical errors without compliance with regular rulemaking procedures.” Otherwise, Idaho Code demands public notice of rulemaking, including publication in the bulletin, “notice of meetings including location, date and time,” and “publishing of written comments.” Sorry, the supporting content is an integral and substantial part of the document, comprising 30 to 40 % of the text, not a technical correction. They also forgot the review by a committee of expert educators and stakeholders. The extremists want this removed as they have all along to bury sections on climate change that were approved by the entire legislature in 2018. This sad caving is just one more example of Supt. Ybarra’s unprincipled, failed and tawdry leadership.

What have the people of Idaho said about the science standards in their entirety, including performance and content elements? In 2016, when the House Education Committee rejected the standards without comment, except to claim falsely that the review process was not followed by the State Department of Education, they demanded another round of public comment sessions. When comments from those statewide meetings ran 400 to 17 in favor of the language written by teachers, they ignored this and cleansed the document of references to human caused climate change.  Then they asked for another year of public hearings. These hearings ran in favor of the language educators wrote 1000 to five. They paid no heed. When they butchered the document in 2017 by removing all supporting content in order to eliminate a few sections on climate change, the Senate Education Committee in a bipartisan vote restored the whole set of standards..

This pattern of blind opposition based on ideology running contrary to the scientific consensus on climate and other human impact issues presents clear evidence of a cabal that will stop at nothing to advance their reactionary agenda. Unfortunately the State Department is willing to not only carry their water, but break the law for them as well. This is what rank corruption smells like. Abuse of power is the natural result of one party rule, whether in Putin’s Russia or here with the Idaho GOP. The fix is in, and all Idaho students are the losers.

Scott Cook

About Scott Cook

Scott Cook is a former director of academics at the State Department of Education.

Read more stories by Scott Cook »

Republish this article on your website