Gov. Steve Beshear says he will override a legislative committee’s decision to reject new science standards that would have updated what Kentucky students should be learning in schools.
The Kentucky Board of Education already approved the Next Generation Science Standards this year, but the the state legislative committee had to also approve the changes.
On Wednesday, the state Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee shot down the new standards in a 5-1 vote. Some lawmakers argued that the Next Generation Science Standards are inferior to the state’s current standards.
“This is going to basically make Kentucky look bad on a national scale,” said Robert Bevins, president of Kentuckians for Science Education.
The NGSS were developed by 26 states, including Kentucky, and have been backed by several major scientific groups. But many Kentuckians voiced opposition to the standards earlier this year, rejecting the inclusion of more lessons in climate change and evolution.
Their opposition gained the notice from national news sources, such as The Huffington Post.
Kentucky Education Department officials say evolution is already included in the current standards and has been part of assessment since 2006. They say enough scientific research exists to also include climate change learning and that the standards don’t advocate for any particular public opinion.
“I think there was enough pressure on them from individuals who are against the new standards for a variety of reasons. Some legitimate, some not, some laughable,” Bevins said.
Other critics say the standards are not rigorous enough.
Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee Committee co-chair Ernie Harris rejected the standards and said they don’t include continuity among grade levels. He further said the list of supporting scientific groups, while impressive, did not have enough representation from Kentucky.
“In many cases we took standards from other states, but we didn’t develop our own and we have plenty of smart people in the state,” said Harris, a Republican state senator from Prospect.
Harris estimates he received 100 comments from his constituents to reject the regulations and only received a few in support.
Earlier this year, the conservative-leaning education think-tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report saying the NGSS would be a step up from Kentucky’s current standards, but the standards still wouldn’t be as good as standards in other states like Massachusetts and South Carolina.
Kentucky’s science standards have not been updated for over a decade and the Board of Education’s approval of the new standards this year follows its transition to the Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and are aimed at making English and math standards common throughout the country.
Kentucky law grants the governor permission to override these types of legislative decisions.
In a statement Wednesday following the committee’s rejection, Beshear’s office said he “fully supports the science standards adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education and is disappointed that the state’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee did not approve them today. The governor views these standards as a critical component in preparing Kentuckians for college and the workforce. Therefore, as provided by law, he will implement the regulations notwithstanding the finding of deficiency.”
Bevins said this could have national repercussions when other states look to adopt the NGSS.
“Because Kentucky was the first to make a bad decision they’re going to be able to point to use and convince their legislators to make a bad decision too,” he said.
Those rejecting the standards include: Rep. Johnny Bell, Sen. Joe Bowen, Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, Rep. Tommy Turner, and Harris.
Louisville Sen. Perry Clark was the sole supporter of the standards. Clark tells WFPL other committee members were supportive, but wanted to protect themselves.
“I was told beforehand, ‘It was going down so protect yourself,’” he said.
Rep. Jimmie Lee abstained and Rep. Robert R. Damron was not present.