After a Kentucky legislative committee voted to reject implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards on Wednesday, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signaled that he would overrule that decision and push the standards forward in the state.
The Next Generation Science Standards -- which set new educational benchmarks –- were developed with input from 26 states, including Kentucky, and have been adopted in six states already. They are designed to align school systems across the U.S., much like the Common Core standards for math and English.
However, the standards have drawn the ire of conservative groups, who complain, among other points, that the standards treat evolution and climate change as fact. After the Kentucky State Board of Education adopted them in June, citizens at a public hearing argued that the standards were “socialist” and adopted “the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution.” Others say the benchmarks simply do not reflect high enough standards, according to Louisville radio station 89.3 WFPL.
Kentucky’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee voted to reject the standards in a 5-1 vote on Wednesday. According to WFPL, some panel members explained the vote by saying they felt the state’s current science guidelines were better than the Next Generation Science Standards and that the subcommittee was reflecting the will of the people.
"From one end of the state to the other, the people of this commonwealth are not ready to embrace these standards for a variety of reasons," state Sen. Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro) told the Louisville-based Courier-Journal.
But science education groups criticized the committee's decision. Robert Bevins, president of Kentuckians for Science Education, suggested that the vote would make Kentucky a national laughing stock.
"I think there was enough pressure on them [the legislators] from individuals who are against the new standards for a variety of reasons. Some legitimate, some not, some laughable," Bevins told WFPL.
Lisa Hoyos, president of the science education advocacy group ClimateParents, said that her group was especially upset because Kentucky has already been hit by the effects of climate change.
"I think that the vote demonstrated a lack of responsibility to future generations both academically and in terms of the threat climate change poses to kids," Hoyos told The Huffington Post. "Kids in some schools are actually learning misinformation."
Soon after the vote, Kentucky's governor said that he would implement the standards through his executive powers.
"Governor Beshear fully supports the science standards adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education and is disappointed that the ... subcommittee did not approve them," Beshear's office said in a statement, according to The Courier-Journal. "The governor views these standards as a critical component in preparing Kentuckians for college and the workforce."
According to the Courier-Journal, the Kentucky General Assembly could take action to block Beshear in 2014, although it is unclear if opponents have plans to do so.