At the start of the 2020 Idaho legislative session, Governor Brad Little emphasized multiple times in his State of the State address that education continues to be Idaho’s “number one priority.” Yet, only a few weeks later, legislators are once again attacking the Idaho education system by attempting to weaken our schools’ science standards.
Idaho’s science standards were developed by experienced and award-winning Idaho teachers and written specifically for Idaho students. These standards are based on the most up-to-date science performance standards that prepare students for higher education and good-paying science and technology jobs. The State Board of Education has considered and unanimously approved these standards at least four times since 2015.
That hasn’t stopped some in the legislature from using the administrative rule process year after year to undermine Idaho’s science standards for political gain. These robust standards are essential for Idaho’s students to receive a complete education, and they shouldn’t be undermined for political theater.
Legislators have received extensive pushback from teachers, students, administrators, parents, and scientists. In 2017 alone, they received around 1,000 comments about science standards, with only five comments in support of allowing legislators to interfere and alter the standards. Hundreds have also shown up to hearings throughout the years to testify against the harmful changes.
Scott Cook, the former director of academics for Idaho’s Department of Education, explained the frustrations that these repeated attacks have created. “I am flabbergasted. We have beat these standards to death,” Cook said, “This is like a zombie approach to educational policy. It’s wasting time and damaging kids’ educational lives.”
What’s at stake
Idaho science standards prepare Idaho students for good, high-paying jobs. In 2017, 7,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs went unfilled in Idaho, and that number is growing with every year. These unfulfilled STEM jobs represent a huge loss for Idaho’s economy, costing about $24 million in annual state tax revenues. Idaho’s children deserve a robust science education to compete for these types of jobs.
These standards are not just harming our children’s education and Idaho’s economic future, they are also undermining Idaho’s teachers. Jenna Raino, a rural science teacher, explained she was “so excited this year because I finally feel like I have a handle on my curriculum in my class. Then, I hear we are thinking about getting rid of them. It frustrates me. … I’m planning on staying in Idaho, but if we keep moving the goalposts, maybe not.”
In a state that is focused on improving teacher retention, we should not be throwing up further roadblocks to undermine their important work. Science standards have already gone through an arduous process and were written by experienced Idaho teachers. Idaho teachers, not politicians, know what’s best for Idaho students.
In the News
- Inside Idaho’s long legislative battle over climate change education – Frontline (12/20/2019)
- Unabridged and official, Senate OKs science standards – Idaho Education News (2/22/2018)
- Idaho stripped climate change from school guidelines – The New York Times (2/6/2018)