Senate rejects climate change education measure

Greg Nash

Republican senators rejected an amendment to a No Child Left Behind reform bill Wednesday that looked to establish a federal climate change education program.

The measure, from Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHonor Frank Lautenberg by protecting our kids Sanders pans chemical safety reform deal Feds fault pipeline company in California oil spill MORE (D-Mass.), would have created a grant program for school districts to “develop or improve climate science curriculum and supplementary education materials,” according to the amendment text. It failed on a 44-53 vote. 

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Before the vote, Markey said the amendment aimed to “ensure that we provide the best science training available for this next generation, the green generation.”

“The children of our country deserve the best scientific education they can get on this topic,” he said. “They are the future leaders of our country and our world. They must be equipped for this generational science.”

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAmerican technology leadership: We can't take it for granted GOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' McConnell touts 'Senate squad' in Wes Anderson-style video MORE (R-Tenn.), the author of the Senate’s education bill, equated the measure to Common Core, the federal learning standards that many conservatives have slammed as a government takeover of education.

“If you like Washington, D.C., getting involved in Common Core in your state, you’re going to love this amendment because it gets the federal government involved in creating a curriculum for climate change in your local high schools and other schools,” Alexander said.

Alexander called himself a “a Republican who believes climate change is a problem and that human activity is a major contributor to that problem.” But he warned that attaching the amendment to his bill could lead to curriculum whiplash depending on which party holds the White House and sets education standards. 

“Just imagine what the curriculum on climate change would be if we shifted from President Obama to President Cruz and then back to President Sanders and then to President Trump,” he said. “There would be a lot of wasted paper, writing and rewriting textbooks.”

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), both of whom face tough reelection fights in swing states next year, were the only Republicans to vote for Markey’s amendment. Among Democrats, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) voted against the measure.