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State education staffer looked to gin up support for controversial science standards

State education staffer looked to gin up support for controversial science standards

Dustin Hurst
February 8, 2017
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February 8, 2017

An Idaho State Department of Education staffer used his government email to gin up support for controversial science standards ahead of an important Statehouse hearing.

An undated email given to IdahoReporter.com Tuesday revealed that Scott Smith, the state agency’s science coordinator, asked colleagues on Idaho’s standards committee to testify in favor of the proposed school science guidelines.

“The Idaho State Department of Education is in need of a few Science Educators from the Standard’s [sic] Committee to be present at the Capital and sign in Tuesday Morning prior to the reading to testify positivelyon [sic] the New Science Standards,” Smith wrote.

“Forget what I said in my earlier email today, your assistance would be greatly appreciated.”

To aid those colleagues, Smith provided details about the hearing, “The location in the Capital [sic] is likely to be Room EW41.”

It’s unclear who received the message.

Jeff Church, the Idaho State Department of Education’s Chief Communications Officer, defended Smith. In an email to IdahoReporter.com Church wrote, Smith “was working to coordinate input from science educators on the new science standards discussed [Tuesday] morning.”  

Church added that Smith has been “directly involved” in the process to develop the new standards.

Lawmakers first dealt with the standards, which set the foundation for classroom learning, last year when the House and Senate Education Committees each voted to reject them during the 2016 session. Their cause for concern: language regarding man’s role in global warming.

The proposed standards, discussed by the House Education Committee Tuesday, replace “global warming” with “climate change,” but still broach humankind’s role in the changing environment.

“Human activities (such as the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuel combustion) are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature,” the proposed standard reads.

Committee members listened to discussion on the issue Tuesday, but didn’t act on the standards due to a scheduling snafu, according to Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin.

House Education Committee Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, did not respond to an email  from IdahoReporter.com about Smith’s message.

Tammy Nichols, executive director of Idaho Education Watch, criticized Smith for sending the message. “As a state worker, regardless of being appointed or elected, your duty is to serve and work toward the benefit and best interest of the people of this great state, not use your authority and resources to lobby against and ignore the people of Idaho,” Nichols told IdahoReporter.com.

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