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The Idaho Legislature Tug-of-War on Science Standards: Round Two

But the House Education chairwoman doesn't want testimony on climate change.

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The forecast for Thursday, Feb. 1 and Friday, Feb. 2 in downtown Boise calls for clouds with a good chance of showers. Statehouse watchers are expecting metaphorically stormy conditions indoors, too, because the Idaho Legislature will be asking for public input on updates (the second round of such changes in as many years) that will be made to science standards in K-12 schools across the Gem State.

When the 2017 edition of the Idaho Legislature removed five references to climate change from the science curricula, a verbal tsunami erupted. In April 2017, nearly 1,000 people stood on the Statehouse steps to register their disapproval of the legislative actions. Meanwhile, a GOP-led House Energy and Technology Committee dug in, rejecting a request from Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) for a public hearing to examine human-caused effects to the environment. Committee Chairman Rep. Dell Raybould (R-Rexburg) made his feelings about climate change clear, telling the Idaho Falls Post Register in 2015, "Just listen to Rush Limbaugh once in a while. See what he thinks about it. He'll tell you that this is just a bunch of nonsense."

Meanwhile, a panel of science teachers and representatives from Idaho universities insisted it isn't nonsense. They held their own public meetings across the state and pleaded with lawmakers to reconsider the recently altered standards during the 2018 legislative session—and they will. The House Education Committee will take up the issue of K-12 science standards, beginning with a pair of public hearings. Committee Chairwoman Rep. Julie VanOrden (R-Pingree) is already warning attendees not to expect a debate on global warming.

"It will be strictly on our standards," VanOrden told Idaho Education News. "This is not a hearing on climate change, and comment on climate change will not be taken." Testimony will be limited to no more than three minutes per person.

Organizers are already expecting a robust attendance, and have moved the hearings to the largest Statehouse meeting room, the Lincoln Auditorium. The first hearing gets underway Feb. 1 at 8 a.m.

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