Wyoming took an unprecedented step this week when the governor approved a budget that would prevent the state from reviewing or funding a new set of science standards that treat climate change as fact.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a new set of education initiatives that have been adopted in 10 states and, like the Common Core State Standards, are designed to make sure students across the country are being held to the same benchmarks. They were developed with input from 26 states; Wyoming does not number among them.
Although the adoption of the NGSS has been controversial in other parts of the country, Wyoming is the first and only state to take legislative action to prevent the its Board of Education from reviewing the Science Standards, according to a press release from education advocacy group Climate Parents.
Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) first proposed a budget amendment that stops the state from considering the NGSS, according to Wyoming outlet the Casper Star-Tribune. Gov. Matt Mead (R) approved this amendment in his budget Wednesday.
In Kansas and Kentucky, both of which would eventually adopt the NGSS, the measure previously drew opposition from right-wing groups that opposed its teachings of climate change and evolution as fact.
“Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God,” Baptist minister and NGSS opponent Matt Singleton said at a Kentucky hearing in July. “Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state.”
Last year, a committee of Wyoming educators recommended that the state adopt the Science Standards, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
But Gov. Mead has in the past expressed his doubts about climate change, and these beliefs may have contributed to his decision to approve the anti-NGSS amendment. According to ThinkProgress, Mead has previously said he is "unconvinced climate change is man-made.”
Groups that promote education on climate change condemned the approval of the anti-NGSS amendment.
“The main reason they’re opposing NGSS is because of climate change. It’s the only issue they raised,” Lisa Hoyos, president of Climate Parents told The Huffington Post over the phone. “These are like bread-and-butter science standards. It's about engineering, it's about geology, core content our kids need to be getting.”
In November 2013, when the Wyoming Board of Education started hearings to consider the NGSS, parents complained about the measure's treatment of evolution and climate change.
The standards “seek to infuse students with a particular political view regarding climate change, sustainability, renewable energy and other environmental matters,” said Judy H., according to the organization COPE Inc., which says it promotes objectivity in education. She also said the board should “not adopt this Plan which appears to promote an atheistic worldview rather than objective science education.”