We Need Strong Science Standards

PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich visits Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails and participates in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) project to help them earn a STEM badge, August 23, 2017.

Dear Friend,

Improving education is the key to unlocking the economic potential in our state and more must be done to support New Mexico's students and teachers. This is especially true in science, technology, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields. If we want to compete in the 21st century, we need to be sure our students have the knowledge and skills necessary for high-tech jobs.

That's why I was so disturbed to see the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED)propose new standards for our K-12 public schools that remove references to rising temperatures, climate change, and evolution. Senator Tom Udall and I wrote the column below in NMPolitics.net outlining why these proposed standards would be so harmful to New Mexico's future.

I encourage you to make your voice heard as PED seeks public input on these proposed new science standards. Public comments must be emailed to rule.feedback@state.nm.usor faxed to (505)827-6681 before October 16. PED will host a public hearing on Monday, October 16 at 9:00 am at the Jerry Apodaca Education Building at 300 Don Gaspar Ave. in Santa Fe.

We have enormous potential to create jobs in major new industries if we can prepare our students with STEM skills. High-tech industries are America's future -- and they are an area where New Mexico can shine, but only if we make the right choices today.


United States Senator

Science education is essential to NM's future

By U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich

As senators who proudly represent the world-class scientists at New Mexico's national laboratories, research universities, military installations, and high-tech businesses, we call on policymakers to use science as a guiding light. Our capacity to seize opportunities and face the many challenges ahead rests heavily on our ability to make decisions driven by scientific data. And our state's economic future depends on ensuring that the next generation has the knowledge and skills - especially in science and math - to qualify for jobs in cutting-edge fields.

That is why we were so disturbed to learn that the New Mexico Public Education Department has proposed watering down science education standards for our public schools by removing any references to rising temperatures, climate change, and evolution. If we weaken our science standards to advance an ideological agenda at the expense of scientific facts, we will put New Mexico at a distinct disadvantage. And we encourage all New Mexicans to speak out against this plan to undermine the quality of K-12 science education.

For decades, advances in science have fueled New Mexico's economic growth. Investment in scientific research during and after World War II drove the greatest era of prosperity in our nation's history, when millions of families joined the middle class and reaped the benefits of America's technological superiority. Our state was home to breakthroughs that changed the way we power our electric grid, protect our national security and connect the world. Our scientists continue to play a major role in creating the technologies and materials that will grow our small businesses and drive our nation's economy.

We want New Mexico to lead in the modern high-tech economy, and that means we must continue to welcome scientific thinkers and innovators on the cutting edge of biomedicine, advanced materials, computing, and clean energy development. Censoring science in our schools will slow the growth of our businesses and dissuade future investment into New Mexico from those looking to relocate their business or company here.

We can only keep our place at the center of scientific innovation if we educate the next generation of New Mexico students with a strong foundation in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Our students need to be equipped with the most rigorous standards if they are going to compete in a global market. Providing an ideologically scrubbed curriculum short-changes our children and intentionally leaves them behind the rest of the world, all in the name of some obscure political agenda.

Building a better education pipeline from cradle-to-career that prepares all New Mexicans for STEM careers is the one sure way to build a better economic future in our state. Our students who are learning science and technology skills in the classroom right now will be the researchers, entrepreneurs, and highly skilled labor force that create new jobs and major new industries in New Mexico.

It is also critical for us to meet the challenges of climate change head on. In the coming years, New Mexico will face the realities of extended droughts, increased wildfire activity, and greater floods. We can't adequately respond and adapt to these climate disruptions if we pretend they don't exist or hide the truth from our children.

We urge all New Mexicans to make their voices heard as the Public Education Department seeks public input on their proposed new science standards. There is a better way forward that gives our students all of the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed.