Lawmakers in West Virginia have blocked new science standards for schools, with the state’s Republican-led House of Delegates voting 73-20 against science material outlined by the federal government that would have promoted the notion that man, primarily through coal burning means, contributes to global warming.
Critics accused the science standards of having a “political agenda” to indoctrinate students with an “ideology” about the science of climate change. ABC News states that West Virginia is a state that culturally and economically defines itself through the coal industry; it is the second largest coal-producing state in the country. It should also be noted that West Virginia is the only state where Democrats’ share of the presidential vote decreased between 2004 and 2008, largely because of their party’s increased opposition to coal production.
“In an energy-producing state, it’s a concern to me that we are teaching our kids potentially that we are doing immoral things here in order to make a living in our state,” a Republican delegate, Jim Butler, said of his vote for the repeal. “We need to make sure our science standards are actually teaching science and not pushing a political agenda.”
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), which encourages educators to teach their students about both climate change and evolution, denounced the West Virginia legislature over its vote.
“West Virginia’s children, like children everywhere, need to learn about the science of climate change,” the organization’s executive director, Ann Reid, said in a statement. “… it is they who will have to live in a world that we have been warming. For their sake, West Virginia’s Senate needs to reject the proposed repeal of the state science standards.” The state Senate has yet to take up the matter.
The science standards are included in the federal Common Core standards, which Republican lawmakers, policy analysts, and presidential candidates vigorously oppose. It is an issue to which Donald Trump and Ted Cruz forcefully object, while some observers account the downfall of Jeb Bush’s campaign in part to his support for Common Core standards.
Liz McCormick of WV Public Broadcasting reports that the West Virginian legislature has prohibited schools from administering standardized tests that align with the federally designed standards. The repeal also rolled back state standards for mathematics and language arts curricula.
In December, West Virginia lawmakers repealed the federal standards and had the state’s Education Department replace them with a new set called College and Career Ready Standards. However, as Ryan Quinn from the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports, some state Republican are accusing their state’s new standards of too closely resembling the federal standards.
For his part, the Democratic governor Earl Ray Tomblin bemoaned West Virginia’s lawmakers’ proclivity for meddling with education policy year after year. Additionally, he argued that educators, rather than lawmakers, are best qualified to determine what scientific material should be taught in the classroom.
“Those are things that our educators should be making those decisions on, as opposed to somebody because of a belief that they have,” Tomblin said.