Senate Majority Floor Leader Eli Bebout (R-Riverton) wants the State Board of Education to develop science standards that are "unique to Wyoming." Bebout's position conflicts with the House version of a bill to repeal a ban on considering the Next Generation Science Standards. (Gregory Nickerson/WyoFile)

Wyoming lawmakers are at odds over a bill to strike down a ban on Next Generation Science Standards that contain information about evolution and man’s role in climate change.

In floor debate House Majority Floor Leader Kermit Brown (R-Laramie) championed House Bill 23 which would repeal a 2014 budget footnote banning the standards. The bill would allow the State Board of Education to consider NGSS, or any other science standards. House Education Committee Chairman John Patton (R-Sheridan) was lead sponsor of the bill.

Senate Majority Floor leader Sen. Eli Bebout (R-Riverton) amended the bill to prevent wholesale adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards by requiring that any standards adopted must be unique to Wyoming.

The House rejected Bebout’s amendment on a vote of 39-20. He responded by amending the budget bill with similar language.

That means both HB 23 and the budget bill now carry Bebout’s amendment calling for unique-to-Wyoming standards, which Speaker Brown and the House object to.

Ending the standoff means resolving differences in the legislation, a compromise which Bebout seems unwilling to make.

Where the debate began

House Bill 23 – Next generation science standards-2 repeals a 2014 budget amendment banning the State Board of Education from spending any funds to consider the Next Generation Science Standards.

“In the heat of the battle of the (2014) budget session, this amendment was not well thought out,” Brown said.

Former House Education chairman Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) proposed the budget amendment during 2014 floor debate. He said he had concerns that the Next Generation Science Standards taught climate change as fact, which he saw as an attack on Wyoming’s fossil fuel industries.

Many said the manner and and procedure of adding the amendment to the budget bill was an affront to the legislative process, and the State Board of Education’s authority to create standards.

The House refused to concur with Sen. Bebout’s amendment to HB 23. Senators who voted in favor of the amendment are shown here. (Legislative Service Office)

Bebout requires “unique-to-Wyoming” standards

Bebout’s amendment to HB 23 provides that the state board of education “may” consider NGSS or other standards “to develop quality science standards that are unique to Wyoming.”

The amendment is identical to a failed House amendment from Rep. Scott Clem (R-Gillette).

“I didn’t have any preordained idea of what that might be,” Bebout said. “Does that mean the sun comes up differently than in Arizona? No.”

To comply with Bebout’s amendment, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow (R) said the new standards could significantly resemble the NGSS, while containing introductory narratives describing how the standards might be used on Wyoming topics.

Industry, members of the public, educators, and others could be involved in drafting the Wyoming-specific narratives, Balow said.

Marguerite Herman, a member of the group Wyoming Climate Parents, objected to Bebout’s amendments. “The Wyoming Senate has again burdened the Wyoming State Board of Education with a new restriction on what the Board is allowed to consider,” Herman said. She called the existing process to review standards “robust,” saying it relies on scientists and educators with stakeholder comment.

“The Wyoming legislature needs to get politics out of the way of science education and free the Board to select the very best standards so our kids are able to compete nationally and internationally,” she said.

Even without Bebout’s amendment to HB 23, it’s possible the public input process could create science standards that treat climate change or evolution differently than NGSS.

Will the conference committee happen?

The House rejection of Bebout’s amendment sends the bill to a conference committee to draft a compromise. But that won’t happen unless Sen. Bebout schedules a conference, and if he doesn’t the bill could die. On Wednesday Sen. Bebout didn’t give a firm answer of when, or if, he anticipates scheduling the conference committee.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on,” Bebout said. “It could be a while.”

Asked if the meeting might happen next week, Bebout responded that he didn’t know.

“You have to have the Senate show up to concur, or not concur,” Bebout said. “(If) we don’t show up, there is no conference committee, and the bill dies.”

Should HB 23 die, the Joint Appropriations Committee has also included language to repeal the ban on NGSS. (See page 80 of this year’s supplemental budget.) The language strips out Teeters’ ban on considering NGSS, even if HB 23 dies.

Bebout said he wants the ban on NGSS repealed, but on Thursday he introduced a budget amendment saying any science standards adopted should be “unique to Wyoming.” The Senate passed the amendment on a voice vote.

During Thursday budget debate, Bebout indicated he may want to talk to members of the House about his amendment. It’s still unclear whether that means he plans to go forward with the conference committee on HB 23.

After adjournment Wednesday Bebout said he will “probably meet” with the conference committee, but when asked to clarify, he retracted.

“I don’t know,” Bebout said. “It will be interesting.”

Update: This story has been updated to note that Rep. Patton is lead sponsor on HB 23.

Gregory Nickerson

Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on www.facebook.com/GregoryNickersonWriter/

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7 Comments

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  1. You are absolutely right. Blogs are not science. Blogs are blogs and science is science. But scientific data, hypothesis, and rebuttal that is shared, makes up a big part of what science is. In this case it is being done on a blog that has been voted the best science Blog by people from around the world. If Bebout went to the Air Force Academy and Wy. eng. degree, I’m sure he not illiterate. Where do you read your science, Steen?

    Paul Cook

  2. Paul, a blog is not science. Especially a blog that seems to select claims from limited resources, and then try to interpret on top of that. If this is your stellar science source, then you are probably as science-illiterate as rep.Bebout.

    Steen Goddik

  3. Seeing how the science of Climatology was born yesterday, the book of “actual “science will never be written, and the hockey stick, the consensus of the 97%, and the zombie apocalypse are all driven by fear mongering and neo political journalism. ” Watts up with That” is one of the best sites on the web to understand how the data has been collected. Its also been voted the best Science blog on the world wide web for 3-4 years. The democrats want to understand climatology about as well as the republicans want to understand evolution. Fear wins elections Lets keep both of these political idiots out of the classroom. Our children deserve better, and hopefully they won,t make old people work in nuclear power plants.

    Paul Cook

  4. As s science major, I find this appalling. To learn about climate change and CO2 emissions teaches us that it can be balanced by microorganisms. plants and trees (per the EPA). Also, our students should learn about reduction through capture and sequestration. We need educated kids for climate change reversal. As for The Origin of Species, there was more controversy among scientists than religious sectors. “Every person must judge for themselves”, Darwin. Let our kids be educated not ignorant and politicians stay out of it.

    Carol Ballard

  5. Well, Dewey, graduating from UW, with its heavy science curriculum censoring by the mineral legislator and the fundamentalist religious legislators, that is not to reassuring. UW is by now more of a King Mineral technical institute. Do you think Bebout can explain the Scientific Method? Engineering is part of STEM, but it doesn’t go that much beyond physics.

    As for the Air Force Academy, it is now more famous for forcing religious adherence onto the students, so that actually is not a plus for him.

    So yes, his function at this point is that of being science-illiterate. I would be happy to see something from him, showing that he merely is hypocritical, rather than ignorant of what he speaks to, but I doubt you will see that from him.

    Steen Goddik

  6. Once again, the science-illiterate are trying to politicize data and evidence, perverting the Scientific Method. Ignorance abounds in that crowd

    Steen Goddik

    1. Steen—contrary to your broad assertion here, Eli Bebout is no “science illiterate “. He attended the Air Force Academy and has a BS in Engineering from our UW.

      Not to excuse him , you understand. His fealty is to the oil gas coal and nuclear industries, and the ideology they produce, which results in Bebout and too many of his legislative ilk to forsake actual science. But not for never having learned any…

      Dewey Vanderhoff