Idaho schools to adopt new science standards

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — After three years of resistance at the GOP-dominant Statehouse, Idaho schools are implementing a new slate of robust science standards.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday approved adopting the updated science standards after little debate.

"I think it's important to recognize this content has been well vetted by our teachers, we've had public hearings on this information," said Sen. Janie Ward-Engleking, a Democrat from Boise. "So it's very important to recognize that these are the professionals of our field and it's very important to adopt them in their entirety."

The low-strife energy surrounding the decision stands out in comparison to the years of contested debate led by some Republican lawmakers who had tried to amend the proposed standards over concerns about references to global warming and the origin of the universe.

Since the first draft was rejected in 2016, science teachers, state officials and others have drafted various versions of the rules that both appeased certain Republican lawmakers and ensured they remained adequately thorough in their content.

Earlier this year, the House Education Committee voted to adopt the new science standards but only after scrubbing some references to climate change.

The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists agree the world is warming, mainly due to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Most of the increase in temperature comes from man-made sources, including the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, deforestation and livestock.

However, the Senate panel's decision on Thursday nullified the House's amendment because the science standards were submitted to lawmakers as a proposed administrative rule and not a legislative bill. Administrative rules use a different process than legislation. Notably, if one committee amends a proposed rule — like remove sections of the science standards — that change would only enacted if the same panel from the other chamber also adopts the same changes.

Content standards are reviewed every six years, but Idaho's science section hasn't changed since 2001, even though they have long been criticized for being too vague and lacked depth.

The science standards adopted Thursday will now remain in place for the next five years.

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