Governor Beshear To Implement New Science Standards

Sep 11, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- New science education standards that call for greater focus on teaching the theories of evolution and climate change in Kentucky classrooms will be implemented despite a finding by a legislative panel that they're deficient, a spokesman for Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday.

The Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee found the Next Generation Science Standards lacking and voted 5-1 Wednesday to send them back to the Department of Education for revamping.

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."

Robert Bevins, president of Kentuckians for Science Education, said opposition to the standards is "a major embarrassment" for Kentucky, a state that 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 that 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.

The Kentucky Board of Education adopted them in June.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Kentucky's existing science standards are "woefully inadequate" and he said the subcommittee vote was political.

"I pretty well predicted this," Holliday.

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."

The standards now could be referred to the Joint Education Committee for further consideration. However, if that committee were to find them deficient, Beshear could again override.