Beshear to implement science standards in wake of panel's rejection

jwarren@herald-leader.comSeptember 11, 2013 

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear plans to implement the new Kentucky Next Generation Science Standards under his own authority, after a legislative review panel rejected them as deficient during a meeting Wednesday.

That would let the standards move forward, but the regulation still could be killed by the full General Assembly when it returns in January.

Terry Sebastian, Beshear's deputy press secretary, said in a statement that the governor "views these standards as a critical component in preparing Kentuckians for college and the work force. Therefore, as provided by law, he will implement the regulations notwithstanding the finding of deficiency."

The governor was "disappointed" that the legislature's Administrative Regulation Review subcommittee didn't approve the standards, Sebastian said.

State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday issued a statement praising Beshear.

"We appreciate the governor's courage and wisdom in executing his legal authority to implement the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in science," Holliday said. "This is good for Kentucky teachers and it's good for Kentucky students."

Members of the review subcommittee said they'd been bombarded by a groundswell of opposition to the standards from across Kentucky during the past few weeks. They also said they were troubled that some basic scientific concepts weren't spelled out in the standards, a concern also raised by some critics who spoke at Wednesday's meeting. (Read the state's explanation of the science standards)

Holliday, obviously disappointed, left the meeting immediately after the vote, which he branded as "political." He dismissed arguments leveled against the standards during the meeting.

"I regret that we weren't able to help folks understand that we're not going to quit teaching chemistry and physics," Holliday said. "That's a ridiculous allegation.

"I think it was pretty much a political vote," he said, adding that he "could pretty well have predicted" the meeting's outcome.

"I think most of this is the same rehash of issues that you had the last time you guys did science standards," he said.

The science standards were developed by a 26-state consortium, including representatives from Kentucky. Scientists and science teachers representing many of the nation's top universities helped in the process, state education department representatives said.

Holliday said that if the standards aren't implemented, Kentucky schools would be left to continue working under the state's existing science standards, which he called "woefully inadequate."

He estimated that if the state ultimately has to start over and write new science standards, it could cost millions of dollars and take three to five years to put them in place.

Holliday, who is from North Carolina, said Kentucky's education standards approval process is unusual. In most states, standards are implemented as soon as the state school board approves them, he said.

"Taking standards to noneducators is an interesting process," he said.

Robert Bevins, president of Kentuckians for Science Education, a group that backs the standards, contended the subcommittee vote resulted from intense lobbying by the Tea Party and the Family Foundation of Kentucky. He also predicted the decision would prove an embarrassment for Kentucky.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this is on The Daily Show tomorrow," Bevins said.

During Wednesday's meeting, Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, subcommittee co-chairman, asked representatives from the state Department of Education if they would agree to defer action on the standards. Kevin Brown, the department's general counsel, said they would not.

Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, then moved that the subcommittee find the standards to be deficient. His motion passed 5-1. Bowen said it was "most unfortunate" that the education department wouldn't agree to defer action, suggesting that more time might have made it possible to "win over the people of the commonwealth."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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