What exactly did Kansas taxpayers get for the estimated $17,000 it cost to stage hearings concerning proposed science standards for Kansas public schools?
Kansas State Board of Education members who already had been critical of the teaching of evolution in the state presided over four days of hearings last month in a supposed effort to clarify the issues surrounding the evolution/creationism/intelligent debate. But the board knew well ahead of time that the hearings would be a one-sided forum because scientists who support evolutionary theory had refused to participate.
That meant that the hearings, with the exception of one appearance by a Topeka attorney, were simply a forum for various critics of evolution to make their case to an audience of state school board members who already agreed with them. Not only the three board members at the hearings, but three others - making a six-member majority on the 10-member board - already had discussed the split report of the state's science standards committee and made known their opposition to maintaining an emphasis on evolution in science classrooms.
But the hearings went on. Witnesses who appeared at the hearings now are claiming almost $5,000 from the state treasury to cover their travel and lodging expenses. Another $4,800 went to a court reporter to record the proceedings. The other roughly $7,000 went for security, board salaries and expenses, room rental and incidentals.
The question here is not whether a majority of the members of the state school board have a right to study and/or alter the state's science education standards. Clearly they do. But why do they also need to spend $17,000 of taxpayer money on hearings when it was clear those hearings would accomplish nothing except to confirm and perhaps try to gain public support for the action they already intended to take? Why not just vote on the issue - as they are expected to do later this week - and be done with it?
If the hearings had been an honest effort to hear both sides of the issue and then make a reasoned decision based on the evidence presented, they might have served a purpose, but, as it is, it's hard to view the school board's show as anything more than a waste of taxpayer money.