April 11, 2014 – Casper Wyoming – State Board of Education Meeting
In a meeting characterized both by procedural irregularities and emotion, Wyoming’s State Board of Education ultimately sent the proposed science standards back to the Review Committee for reworking. While unclear how much of the Next Generation Science Standards could be included in the final product, board members voiced a need for A-rated standards that will benefit Wyoming students and be free of controversial assumptions. The committee will be allowed to use the NGSS as a model, but it appeared that using other state standards as models will be expected as well.
Public comment was rearranged on the agenda to allow comments to be heard before the vote on the outcome of the NGSS. A group called Climate Parents, some of whom we believe traveled in from out of state, organized statements to support the NGSS and the teaching of anthropogenic global warming in classrooms, and a teacher brought students to do so as well. However, the students did not appear either personally invested or prepared to articulate that position.
Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core also organized statements among participants who could attend the meeting. Members pointed out that the budget footnote was the correct response of the Legislature to concerned citizens and expressed reasons to push for more academically sound and objective standards than the NGSS. We were joined by Representative Tom Reeder, Representative Lynn Hutchings and Michelle Sabrosky, who also contributed valuable testimony. We so appreciate the time everyone took out of their personal lives to make a strong showing at this meeting.
Several testifying, including both legislators, asserted this meeting or ANY consideration of NGSS, even as a model, is not legal given the budget footnote’s restriction on funds. In spite of this concern, the board proceeded to take action, and in the weeks to come, the legality of is the footnote will likely be investigated.
Some board members were anxious to adopt the NGSS for promulgation in spite of the legislature’s budget footnote “effective immediately” due to their own interpretation of the footnote’s effective date. Some board members like the NGSS and expressed concern we wouldn’t have “21st Century Standards” available immediately for our schools. Others clearly were in favor of making the rejection of the standards the Governor’s problem by forcing him to veto the vote for promulgation, as Mary Kay Hill said she would advise the Governor to do should the state board move forward and adopt these standards. However, the vote to adopt for promulgation ultimately failed this time.
The initial vote to send the standards back to the Review Committee also failed, as did a motion to approve the resolution by the Supervisory Committee members to stop this process and allow school districts to choose their own science standards. There was a great deal of contentious discussion, frustration and consultation with legal counsel during the entire meeting, which even went to executive session at one point. It was clear no one wanted to leave the room having done “nothing”, so it finally came back to a vote to reconsider the motion to send the standards back to the Review Committee, and that motion in the end passed.
It will be crucial now for citizens to monitor this process, participate in opportunities to contribute and be watchful for the necessary changes in the standards. As Mary Kay Hill stated as she outlined the position of the Governor’s office, citizen engagement like this is unprecedented and a great opportunity to have genuine, open discussion and participation. Our state can end up with academically sound standards that stay religiously neutral and scientifically objective and be the best in the country!