Victory in Idaho

03.29.2018

When the Idaho legislature adjourned sine die on March 28, 2018, a three-year-long struggle over new state science standards ended, with a generally positive outcome.

As NCSE previously reported, in 2016, the legislature rejected a proposed set of science standards altogether, ostensibly on the grounds that there was not adequate opportunity for public comment. But there is reason to think that hostility toward the inclusion of evolution and climate change in the standards played a role in the decision.

In 2017, when the standards were again under consideration, the House Education Committee voted to remove references to climate change and human impact on the environment, and the Senate Education Committee, and subsequently the legislature as a whole, followed suit.

The standards were then revised slightly to qualify the acknowledgment of human responsibility for recent climate change. The drafting committee was evidently "trying to navigate [between] a rock and a hard place," as NCSE's Glenn Branch told the Spokane, Washington, Inlander (June 8, 2017).

In 2018, the revised version of the standards underwent review by the legislature. In February 2018, the House Education Committee voted to remove a reference to climate change and all of the "supporting material" content. But the Senate Education Committee refused to follow suit, instead voting 6-3 to approve the standards as submitted.

Owing to what Idaho Education News (February 22, 2018) aptly described as "the [l]egislature's arcane process of rules review," the Senate Education Committee should have had the last word: the two chambers of the legislature would have to agree in order for the standards to be rejected.

Nevertheless, the House Education Committee introduced two measures, House Concurrent Resolutions 60 (PDF) and 61 (PDF), which, if adopted by both chambers, would have deleted the material that the committee voted to reject from the proposed standards. These resolutions never came to a floor vote.

The new standards, complete with the revised treatment of climate change, will remain in place for the next five years.