Gov. Beshear overrides decision to spike science standards

By Michelle Sokol, Published:

Frankfort Independent Schools administrators will support the state’s new science education standards despite recent legislative obstacles.

The Kentucky Board of Education adopted the standards in June, but state lawmakers on the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee voted 5-1 Wednesday to send them back to the Department of Education for revamping. 

Gov. Steve Beshear overrode the panel’s finding a few hours later.

“We keep talking about STEM, we keep talking about moving our kids forward scientifically and with technology and with engineering and with mathematics and with the arts,” FIS Superintendent Rich Crowe said. “… It’s up to us, it’s up to the districts, to put the meat on the bones and use these standards.”

Franklin County Superintendent Chrissy Jones did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday morning, but the Board of Education, particularly member Doug Crowe, has voiced support for a focus on science education.

The Next Generation Science Standards, which call for greater focus on teaching the theories of evolution and climate change in Kentucky classrooms, have been bounced back and forth between different education agencies and panels.

The standards could be referred to the Joint Education Committee for further consideration, but Beshear could again override any decision.

Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian said in a statement that the governor was disappointed by the vote.

“The governor views these standards as a critical component in preparing Kentuckians for college and the workforce,” Sebastian said. “Therefore, as provided by law, he will implement the regulations notwithstanding the finding of deficiency.”

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said he was also disappointed in the panel’s finding and said the committee was led to believe there was little support across the state for the new standards.

As the grandmother of a student who attended the Early Learning Village discovered, that’s not the case.

Before the standards went before the Kentucky Board of Education, Sheila Anderson started a petition in favor of them. Within a couple of days it collected close to 4,000 signatures.

“I was very surprised,” Anderson told The State Journal in June, as the state board was taking up the issue. 

“But it just goes to show many, many people in Kentucky are in support of including climate science in new curriculum.”

She said she took up the cause when she discovered her granddaughter’s education was lacking several critical components.

“The new standards are helping to teach the kids about climate science, global warming, just the history of the earth with temperature changes,” she said. 

“All that stuff they need to know to come up with good solutions to the problems we’re facing. It’s going to be up to them to do it because no one in this generation is having much luck.”

Robert Bevins, president of Kentuckians for Science Education, said opposition to the standards is “a major embarrassment” for Kentucky, a state he said is already considered “an ignorant backwater.”

“Know that we will be a laughing stock,” Bevins told lawmakers. “We will be the Flintstone state.”

Supporters believe the new standards will allow Kentucky students to keep pace with peers in other states as they prepare for college and careers. Critics complained the standards go too far in stressing the teaching of evolution and climate change.

The debate has been heated at times in Kentucky. Subcommittee co-chairman Johnny Bell, a Democrat from Glasgow, clamped down on verbal jousting in Wednesday’s meeting, sternly threatening to have people removed for outbursts.

“We’re not going to debate this,” Bell said. “If we do, we’re going to end up in fisticuffs, and I don’t have a gun or knife or anything.”

The proposed standards were developed by a consortium of 26 states with input from scientists and education experts from the nation’s top universities and have already been implemented elsewhere.

Holliday said Kentucky’s existing science standards are “woefully inadequate” and he said the subcommittee vote was political.

“I pretty well predicted this,” Holliday said.

Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation, said the standards shouldn’t be approved because they neglect basic science knowledge in favor of some of the hottest new theories about global warming and evolution. 

Cothran said the standards mention climate, weather and global warming more than 130 times and evolution 24 times, but are devoid of words like mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian.

“However you feel about theories like global warming and evolution, it seems to us that no one doubts that intelligent belief or even disbelief in these theories requires basic knowledge about the natural world,” Cothran said. “This kind of basic science knowledge is precisely what is missing.”

Roger Alford with the Associated Press and Michelle Sokol with The State Journal contributed to this report.

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  • It's high time people in this state own up to Kentucky IS the Flintstone state.  The long history in Kentucky of not putting value on higher education has resulted in the stagnation and, in fact, backsliding of the state to number 48th out of 50 states in education.  Shame on you, people.