CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Doubt over man’s contribution to global warming, particularly through burning coal for power, is fueling a push by West Virginia lawmakers to block new science standards in schools.
In a state defined by a coal industry that is now on life support, the Republican-led House of Delegates voted 73-20 on Friday to delay the new science standards related to Common Core.
Discussion on the measure Thursday focused on concerns, largely by coal proponents, that teaching the standards about global warming would follow a “political agenda” and an “ideology.”
The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists say global warming stems largely from manmade sources. A major source of carbon emissions is burning coal.
“In an energy-producing state, it’s a concern to me that we are teaching our kids, potentially, that we are doing immoral things here in order to make a living in our state,” said Del. Jim Butler, R-Mason.
The science standards, set to take effect July 1, would be blocked for at least a year and existing standards would remain in their place. The measure next heads to the GOP-controlled Senate, where the education chairman says he has no issue with the bill.
“As it stands right now, I have no problems with it at all,” said Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston. “I’m going to work it and send it right through.”
It’s unclear how the full Senate would act on the proposal.
In April 2015, the state Board of Education made some changes to the standards that global warming doubters favored; for example, adding “natural forces” to the list of climate-change debate topics, which already included greenhouse gases; human changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases; and relevant laws and treaties.
Climate change only appears in a handful of places in the standards. In one example, ninth-graders are tasked with analyzing “geoscience data and the results from the global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.”
The full bill passed Friday also would change standards for other subject areas. Experts appointed by the House speaker and Senate president would suggest new math and English standards to be put in place by the 2017-18 school year.
Last year, the Board of Education stripped its Common Core-related standards for math and English and replaced them. But some lawmakers say the new standards still resemble Common Core too closely.
Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the state shouldn’t keep changing its educational standards year after year.
He also criticized lawmakers for the change on the science standards.
“Those are things that our educators should be making those decisions on, as opposed to somebody because of a belief they have,” Tomblin said.
Some delegates said it would be dangerous to start limiting the information presented to students by blocking the science standards.
“It’s a bigger world than just West Virginia that many of these students are going to live in,” said Del. Dave Perry, D-Fayette.
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