Topeka Kansas taxpayers are being asked to pick up the tab for more than two dozen witnesses who flew here from across the country to disparage evolution during science standards hearings last month.
State records released Monday showed the witnesses have requested $4,987.73 for travel, lodging and - in some instances - meals and parking.
The science standards hearings, convened by three State Board of Education members for four days, drew international attention as critics of evolution testified for school standards that question the theory.
State education officials say the tab for the science hearings is running about $17,000*, including:
¢ $4,800 for court reporter,
¢ $4,987 for witness expenses,
¢ $4,651 for board salary and expenses,
¢ $1,731 for security,
¢ $740 for equipment and room rental, and
¢ $103 for refreshments.
Harry McDonald, a member of a coalition of mainstream science groups that boycotted the hearings, said the expense and time was a tremendous waste because the conservative majority on the State Board of Education had already made up their minds to adopt standards that will criticize evolution.
"They are going to do exactly what they were going to do all along," McDonald said. "The only difference now is, 30-some thousand dollars of Kansas taxpayers' money has been spent."
Evolution in Kansas
- 6News video: Some question group's move with elections nearing (07-08-06)
- 49abcnews.com video: Discovery Institute starts ad campaign weeks before elections (07-07-06)
- 6News video: Film explores evolution circus (01-03-06)
- 6News video: Group takes shot at Mirecki through postcards (12-15-05)
- 6News video: Mirecki resigns from KU department post (12-07-05)
- Education board to revisit debate over evolution (02-11-07)
- As old board departs, new evolution stance takes shape (12-14-06)
- Biologist speaks for intelligent design (12-08-06)
- Cultures clash in Democratic primary (07-06-06)
- Education department spokesman leaves job (06-15-06)
- Evolution, religion comments put heat on department spokesman (05-26-06)
- KU profs support evolution skepticism (02-21-06)
- Science teachers pan new standards (02-14-06)
- 'Dodos' circling around I.D. (01-04-06)
- Attorneys in I.D. case spread message (01-04-06)
- Professor blasts KU, sheriff's investigation (12-10-05)
- Kansas ranks last in science (12-08-05)
- Discovery Institute
- Evolution timeline: Events related to the Kansas controversy
- U.S. District Court Ruling in Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District (PDF)
- Center for Science and Culture: A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism
- Parody: Intelligent Design Society of Kansas
- Mirecki press release (.pdf)
- More evolution coverage
- LJWorld.com's Evolution in Kansas coverage
Anti-evolutionists, however, have said the expense was minimal and necessary in order to ensure that Kansas science standards were of high quality.
John Calvert, the head of an intelligent design organization, and who summoned all the witnesses, has defended the expenses.
"This is one of the most important issues facing education in the entire country," he said.
The pro-evolution side had no expenses because they boycotted the hearings, and Topeka lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray, who cross-examined anti-evolution witnesses, said he would work for free.
Mainstream scientists boycotted the hearings, saying it was simply a forum to give publicity to proponents of intelligent design, which says that science cannot explain certain complexities of life and that the world is evidence of a master planner.
The full State Board of Education is expected to consider the science standards this week. Because conservatives have a 6-4 majority on the board, it is expected that the criticisms of evolution will be included in the standards, which are the basis for instruction that Kansas students will be tested on.
Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka whose district includes Douglas County, supports the teaching of evolution.
"It was a gigantic waste of money," Wagnon said of the hearings. "This is an abuse of the responsibility of board members for allowing this to happen," he said.
* The expense amounts detailed in the print version of this story - which inaccurately put the total at $30,000 - have been updated in this online version.