ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state’s Public Education Department says it will make changes in response to widespread criticism over new standards for teaching science, but teachers are now saying it doesn’t go far enough and that one major private interest is getting in the way.
In response, PED Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski sent a statement late Tuesday, acknowledging that the department would make changes in light of the testimony.
“We have listened to the thoughtful input received and will incorporate many of the suggestions into the New Mexico Standards,” said Ruszkowski in an emailed statement to the press.
Ruszkowski now says New Mexico’s middle schoolers will learn about the age of the earth and a rise in global temperatures, while high schoolers will learn about evolution and climate change.
The controversy has come over the last several months as the state’s proposed version of the science standards were criticized for not working in topics of evolution, the earth’s age and climate change.
For teacher union representative Stephanie Ly, the changes announced Tuesday (following the public hearing) are a clear indicator the PED is acknowledging problems with its version of proposed science standards.
“Let’s be real, the secretary of education, he heard everyone,” said Ly, who’s the president of the American Federation of Teachers of New Mexico.
While she’s happy that there were some things changed, Ly says the changes don’t go far enough.
“(Opponents) said they wanted him to adopt the next generation science standards, (Ruszkowski) didn’t do that,” said Ly.
In a joint statement between the American Federation of Teachers of New Mexico and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, the unions claim the PED and Secretary Ruszkowski removed ”only the two or three most egregious proposals.”
Ly believes that Governor Susana Martinez and the PED have changed the adopted science standards for New Mexico to downplay oil and gas industry’s role in the earth’s and climate change.
In an interview on September 15, 2017, KRQE News 13 asked Ruszkowski about the controversial changes. Ruszkowski avoided the question, instead, giving the following answer, in part.
“There’s been science standards in New Mexico now for over a decade and our teachers have always had the flexibility to adapt to their local needs and their local context,” said Ruszkowski.
The PED still has not explained where the original changes came from. Ly still believes special interests are at play.
“We call on them to do the right thing, think about what New Mexicans need and not what their political friends are telling them,” said Ly.
KRQE News 13 called and emailed the PED on Wednesday afternoon to get a response to the union’s most recent statement, but did not hear back.
The unions say they’ll keep fighting the changes.