Rep. Christine Palm

After a second lengthy debate in the span of six days, the House passed a bill Tuesday that would require climate change to be taught in public schools.

Rep. Christine Palm, a lead proponent of the proposal, championed its resurrection after it was cut from a bill last week that included a requirement for all school districts to offer a course in African American, Puerto Rican and Latino history. That bill was passed by the House last Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Democrats used another bill — one that was no longer needed because it focused on including Latino history in the curriculum — and added a “strike-all amendment,” recycling the bill to hold the climate change curriculum requirement.

The bill codifies the requirement for teaching climate change included in the Next Generation Science Standards. The standards, which are already adhered to in schools, were approved by the state Board of Education in 2015 and are part of state statute.

Republicans, who opposed the climate change requirement last week, spoke against it for hours Tuesday, expressing annoyance about how the bill was raised.

Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, filibustered for an hour and 36 minutes by talking about the history of climate change and railing against the use of the Latino history bill for the climate change proposal.

“For the legislature to do a strike-all amendment on a bill called an Act Concerning Latino American Studies and putting in global warming instead, does a grave disservice to the people of my district,” Dubitsky said, “and the people of the proponent’s district and all other districts. There is no way anyone who is not part of this legislature would have known that this amendment would be attached to this bill with a completely different name.”

The vote of 102 to 44 was largely along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and many, though not all, Republicans dissenting.  The bill will now move to the Senate. If called and passed by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, the legislation would make Connecticut the first state in the country to mandate teaching the topic.

“By putting climate change education into state statute, Connecticut is taking the lead in empowering young people to be part of the solution to a problem they had no hand in making,” Palm said after the bill was passed. “Past generations, including mine, have despoiled our environment, and the current administration in Washington systematically strips out enlightened regulations that had been enacted to protect our land, air and waterways. The least we can do is give our students a chance to salvage what’s left of our natural world.”

Palm sparred with contenders for almost five hours in what largely became a debate over the legitimacy of climate change itself. Reps. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, and David Wilson, R-Litchfield, also voiced concerns that lawmakers should not be legislating curriculum decisions.

“This isn’t about climate change. It’s about overstepping our legislative responsibilities,” Betts said. “[This proposal] is a slap in the face to local boards of education, teachers, and to the kids, quite frankly.”

Rep. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, called  for a “fair and balanced” approach to climate change curriculum that offers an alternative to the theory that climate change is linked to  human behavior.

“If this legislation passes and climate change is mandated to be taught by each municipality,” Ferraro said, “I can only hope that the approach to teaching that science will be done in a way that allows our students to get a fair and balanced approach to all sides of the argument for global temperature increase.”

Palm countered such arguments saying, “The preponderance of peer reviewed scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activity. That is what the (Next Generation Science Standards) promotes and this is what science teachers currently teach.”

Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, said “I support this amendment, however I’m a little surprised to be in the chamber today hearing that the subject of climate change is controversial, when in fact it’s not.”

Maya Moore is CT Mirror’s 2019 Emma Bowen Foundation Intern. She is a journalism and political science student at the University of Connecticut and has an interest in topics covering race and social justice. Moore began her undergraduate journalism career as a campus correspondent with UConn’s independent student-led paper, the Daily Campus, and has since interned for the Hartford Courant. Her work has also been published in the Willimantic Chronicle and the university’s premier publication, UConn Today. Moore is a New Britain native and currently resides in Mansfield, where she continues to write for UConn’s communications department.

Kathleen Megan wrote for more than three decades for the Hartford Courant, covering education in recent years and winning many regional and national awards. She is now covering education and child welfare issues for the Mirror.

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7 Comments

  1. And our legislators are qualified to decide what should be taught in our schools because…?

    1. The science is pretty straight forward – it does take some time to learn- its very detailed bringing in geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy- The science of greenhouse gases warming the atmosphere is not new science- its been around 200 years. As it stands Connecticut is in the bulls eye – for an increasingly destructive and damaging climate. C02 reached 416ppm a few weeks ago- the significance of this is very fretful.

      1. The politicians will have it taught that Americans are the villains. Go to India and China to find the source of your CO2. It’s one thing to teach the science, which we’ve always done, and another to teach Americans are bad, evil people. The UN driven liberals are more interested in getting the American taxpayer to fund their globalization goals, then they are about any environmental cleanups.

  2. I continue to be shocked and amazed at the ignorance around Climate Change. Individuals villiainize automobiles and coal, but fail to understand the impacts of deforestation. Man has been hacking down trees for shelter, fuel, and urban development since we’ve walked the earth. With that said, individuals need to realize every tree felled is the loss of a natural, highly refined CO2 Burning Engine which can absorb 2.5 Tons or CO2. So, if these individuals want to teach children how to save the planet…they should teach them to stop cutting down trees. Maybe consider something than a wood house, wood furniture, Trees have always been the answer to CO2, and they always will be.

  3. Democrats keep pushing their propaganda on the young. The young don’t realize how polluted Connecticut used to be! The river was a smelly sewage filled mess that could cause skin issues on contact. Animals and birds seen today were non existent. Go to India or China and see new skyscrapers that feed their sewage directly into the nearest river. Teach that!

    1. There will be no America OR Connecticut if we keep driving up C02 Into the atmosphere.The events in Houston, North Carolina, the Midwest are only the beginning. Its going to become much worse. No one region is immune to a rapidly destabilizing climate.

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