West Views: Opinions from newspapers in Idaho and the West

May 19, 2014 

Climate text flunks in coal country

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Last week, Wyoming rejected new K-12 science standards proposed by national education groups after questions were raised about the treatment of man-made global warming.

As the nation's top coal-producing state, Wyoming and its board of education said it will look into whether "we can't get some standards that are Wyoming standards and standards we all can be proud of."

In other words, the board will review the standards until Wyoming's local coal companies, which provide $1 billion to the state and local governments, are happy with the education it feeds its children.

Twelve states have adopted the science standards since they were released in April 2013, but it's no surprise Wyoming is leery. No one wants to upset the groups that produce almost 40 percent of the nation's coal and support about 6,900 jobs in the state.

But as a proponent of the standards said, the science lessons are acknowledged to be the best to prepare children for the future, are evidence based and are peer reviewed.

Despite backing by thousands of scientists, man-made global warming's existence is still debated, especially in a place that denies the fate of polar bears as long as money is being made.

Amy Edmonds of the Wyoming Liberty Group said the standards are just "one view of what is not settled science about global warming."

But the fact is, burning coal to generate electricity produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, which traps gas in the atmosphere. Nearly all scientists say man-made CO2 contributes to global warming, but the degree to which it is blamed for global warming is in dispute among scientists, and obviously in education.

The standards Wyoming denied for its high school students assert models predict human activity is contributing to climate change, but leave an "appropriate amount of uncertainty."

While climate change may not be pretty and may be a fly in the face of the state's cash cow, children need to know ... where the planet is headed.

Kids need kindergarten

Times-News (Twin Falls)

Idaho is a cheapskate, and our students are bearing the brunt of Boise's tightwads.

Challenge a state official on this fact and you get the standard drivel - about two-third of the state's general fund goes to education, they say.

Well, yippee. Let's ignore the fact that total state spending has plummeted since 2009 and, since schools are the largest single line item, it's education that's been hardest hit by stingy policymakers. It's schools that are the sacrificial lamb of the Legislature's annual liturgical devotion to find a tax - any tax - to cut just to save face. Who needs revenue, anyway?

Lawmakers live in a dream world, where a Spanish-speaking single mother is magically equipped to read her children "Grapes of Wrath" after working a double shift. It's policy written by the well-off with no concept of how the other half lives.

The numbers tell the real story.

Sixty-eight percent of Jerome's youngest students read below grade level. Sixty-seven percent are in the same boat in Hansen. Thirty-two percent of Idaho's fourth-graders were substandard readers.

Some lawmakers say that there's "no return" on mandatory kindergarten, or pre-K, for that matter. A small pre-K test run died this year in the Legislature. Lawmakers won't even try it.

The haze of mythical belief - while blaming parents and abdicating responsibility - must be so comforting ... It's time to accept the facts. Stop the happy spin and address a problem that will otherwise keep Idahoans poor for generations.

Every district should be mandated to offer kindergarten, and the state should foot the bill.

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