Attention legislators: Don’t fail Idaho now

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You may have seen the ad campaign “Don’t Fail Idaho,” suggesting we need to up our education game here in Idaho, currently ranked 48th in the nation. The slogan rings hollow given the Idaho House Education Committee’s 12-4 vote last week to dismantle science standards relating to global climate change, among other things, despite the fact that during six public hearings in 2017, 995 of 1,000 people who left feedback supported the proposed standards, according to the State Department of Education. The New York Times reported on Feb. 6 that “…only in Idaho has the state legislature stripped all mentions of human-caused climate change from statewide science guidelines...” Only in Idaho.

Rep. Ron Mendive, calling the content “unnecessary,” dismissed objection to the committee’s decision. Rep. Paul Amador defended his vote to remove the standards by stating, “If we didn’t approve the new standards, things would have reverted back to… standards which are very outdated.” I think he’s confused. He went on to say, “I do think it’s important for us to better understand how the world’s climate is changing and how those changes might impact life...” Then why remove wording relating to human activities and their impact on climate change, Rep. Amador? And why deprive our students of the opportunities to learn about them and be challenged to engage in the issue?

Good education focuses on many aspects of issues, so here are some questions for Reps. Amador, Mendive, Cheatham and Syme, all of whom voted to remove these standards: without current and future generations of educators and students committed to learning about climate change, how can we inspire future engineers, planners and architects devoted to developing better construction solutions to help mitigate the effects of climate change on our built environments? How do we inspire future scientists to develop strategies for slowing or reversing climate change? How do we compel future civic leaders to develop public policy that will address these issues?

These politicians don’t seem concerned about reversing education standards, and it would be interesting to know who or what influences their complacency; but students are disappointed, and educators are alarmed and outraged. As are parents. Voting parents. This ignorant and ill-advised vote will set Idaho students back as the only state in the union where this science is not fully taught.

Idaho students have a right to be taught science aligned with national standards. Instead, if these new “standards” are adopted, Idaho will look to all the world as an ignorant backwater. And that would be an unconscionable injustice to our children.

Education empowers. It’s the leveler of playing fields, the awareness of more than the environment we’ve been raised in, the eraser of bias, the gateway to success. It’s the key to everything. And though college isn’t the only path to success, those Idaho students who apply to higher academic institutions will be competing for coveted spots against students who will have been taught science to very high, accepted standards. Our students will be disadvantaged and ill-prepared at the college level among enlightened peers from other areas if our legislators allow their education to be sub-standard.

On the same day the article regarding the House vote was published, I attended a commercial forum whose keynote speaker was Dr. Kirk Schulz, president of Washington State University. He spoke about WSU’s new medical school in Spokane, and the influx of science, biotechnology and medical technology-related businesses and professionals populating the Spokane-CdA area as a result. The excitement this ignited in members of the business community in attendance was palpable, with the recognition that our region stands to benefit in many ways, including economically, from this development. Sadly, it also served as a striking and appalling contrast to the House vote to deprive Idaho students of the very kind of science standards that Dr. Schulz extolled. When these educated, well-paid people consider whether to settle in Idaho or Washington to raise their children, they will absolutely consider the education system available.

Education should be progressive; by definition, it should always be moving forward, not backward. Idaho must do better. Our elected representatives must do better or they should be replaced. I urge everyone reading this, whether you have school-aged children or not, to write to the Cd’A Public Schools Board of Trustees or attend their next meeting on March 5 to voice your opinion. And please contact your elected representatives and urge them to reconsider this decision, in the best interests of our students.

•••

Mary Sorensson is a resident of Hayden.

Contacts:

Lynn Towne, Clerk of the Board, CdA Public Schools Board of Trustees: ltowne@cdaschools.org

Coeur d’Alene Public Schools, 1400 N. Northwood Center Court, Coeur d’Alene ID 83814

Rep. Paul Amador: pamador@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Ron Mendive: rmendive@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Don Cheatham: dcheatham@house.idaho.gov

Rep. Scott Syme: ssyme@house.idaho.gov

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