HB 716: Replacing Idaho Education Standards V2.0 – 2022
ICL's position: Oppose
Current Bill Status: Law
Issue Areas: Climate Change, Education, science
House Bill 716 is the latest version of HB 437. This bill would force the State Board of Education to accept draft revisions to the K-12 Science, Math and English Standards. The bill undermines the authority of the constitutionally-established State Board of Education, establishing a troubling precedent. It also appears inconsistent with the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act, by requiring the adoption of these standards before they’ve been vetted through the public review process.
House Education Chairman Rep. Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls) introduced the bill, along with a resolution (HCR 39) seeking to reject the previous standards that were properly vetted and approved by the State Board of Education.
Instead of short-circuiting the process, the Legislature should reject this bill, approve the pending rules and allow future revisions to be considered pursuant to the regular Administrative Rulemaking process.
In 2016, the Idaho Legislature rejected revised science standards because they included discussion of the formation of the solar system, the age of the earth, human impact on the environment and climate change.
In 2017, the House Education Committee took issue with 5 specific paragraphs related to climate change. They approved the remainder of the standards on a provisional basis for one year but asked a committee of science teachers (and the State Department of Education) to redo the climate-related standards.
In 2018, the House Education Committee again took issue with 6 specific standards AND moved to strip all supporting content from the Science Standards (representing approximately 40% of the document). Luckily, because of the way that Administrative Rules are approved in Idaho, when the Senate Education Committee supported the standards in full (including supporting content) they were approved.
Then, in 2019, Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star) sponsored a bill that would have given veto power to one chamber if they didn’t like a rule. While the bill died in the Senate, the dispute led to the expiration of over 8,000 pages of Administrative Rules that govern state agencies and processes.
As a result, Governor Little was forced to re-implement the entire rule book and redo every single rule. The administration took that opportunity to streamline rules and remove outdated direction. In 2020 the legislature reconsidered more than 6,000 pages of revised rules, including the science standards, which the House rejected. Again, the Senate refused to go along with the House, and approved the rules. At the same time, they established a new hand-selected committee to reconsider the rules.
That committee met in 2020-21 to reconsider the Science Standards once again, making a handful of changes to the language regarding climate change, human impacts to the earth, extinction, and more. Ultimately, the State Board of Education did not accept the rewritten rules and instead advanced the previously approved version. Now Rep. Clow is trying to force the State Board of Education to accept his preferred rewrite.
Why does it matter?
Throughout years of public comment and review, thousands of comments supported sound science standards, including climate change, with only a handful of comments in opposition. Year after year, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the standards for submission to the Legislature, which they did again in August 2021.
As experts appointed by the Governor, the State Board of Education has a constitutional duty to provide for the education of Idaho’s children. This bill undermines their authority and could open the door to future efforts to control the actions of the Board.
We must equip Idaho’s children with a quality education rooted in well-founded principles — their future careers and lives as informed, engaged citizens depend on it.