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Wyoming Takes First Step Toward Ending Ban on Common Science Standards

Yesterday, the Wyoming House gave preliminary approval on a proposal to eliminate a budget footnote that effectively forbids the state board of education from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards.

As I wrote last week, Wyoming and West Virginia have been hot spots of debate on the common science standards—in particular, regarding how the standards address climate change. Opponents of the standards in both energy-rich states have argued that global warming is not a settled science, and should not be taught as fact. Many scientists and science educators say the data are clear and that the science community is in agreement that global warming is occuring. 

The Wyoming legislator who wrote the budget footnote banning the board from considering the science standards has not been re-elected. The ban has received heavy pushback since it passed in March, from science and math educators, religious groups, and even other lawmakers.

State Rep. John W. Patton, a Republican and the chairman of the House education committee, has led the charge to repeal the footnote. He told me in an interview for last week's story that the state board of education has a "statutory responsibility" to review standards, and that the legislature should not impede its ability to do so. "I just don't feel it's appropriate that we in the legislature second-guess the state board of education," he said. 

Wyoming's Casper Star-Tribune reports that several other House members agreed with that stance. 

The bill still needs to go through two more readings and head to the Senate. But there's no doubt that proponents of the standards see this as heartening. 

Plus, West Virginia has already proven this kind of move can come undone. The state board there initially rewrote the standards' language on climate change. Last week, it voted to go back to the original language and ask for more public comments. The board president expects the unaltered Next Generation Science Standards to be adopted—global warming language and all.

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