Topeka New public school science standards that challenge evolution are "a step in the wrong direction," and Kansans should closely follow the State Board of Education elections next year, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Friday.
However, the Democratic governor wouldn't say whether she will lead a campaign to oust the four conservative Republican board members who voted for the standards this week and are up for re-election next year.
"As I travel around, I want to make sure people understand, when they live in an area where one of these very critical elections will take place, that those elections are coming in 2006," Sebelius told reporters.
As for the standards, Sebelius said: "I hear from parents and teachers and business leaders that they really want Kansas education to be first-class education, and they want to make sure that we are known as a state that values education, values science, values initiatives, technologies, creativity. And I think this is a step in the wrong direction, as do a lot of the people who talk to me."
Supporters contend the standards will promote openness in science classrooms by exposing students to valid criticisms of evolutionary theory.
Despite a disclaimer in the standards, opponents argue they promote intelligent design, which says an intelligent cause is the best explanation for some features of the natural world.
The standards will direct the development of tests for students, to measure how well schools are teaching science. How science is taught remains a decision by local school boards.
"There is some ample time for discussion and some time for change," Sebelius said.
John Calvert, a retired Lake Quivira lawyer who helped found the Intelligent Design Network, said the standards promote good science and will be well-received by Kansans - if they are well-enough informed.
Two board members who voted for the standards, John Bacon, of Olathe, and Connie Morris, of St. Francis, have drawn both Republican and Democratic challengers. A third member, Iris Van Meter, of Thayer, has a Democratic opponent.
"Often, unfortunately, I think the Board of Education races are not well-publicized or not well-known by people," Sebelius said. "A lot of people don't even know who their board member is. I think that that's changing."
Sebelius called the standards "a declaration that we're moving away from well-known, proven scientific facts in science classes."
Calvert responded: "I think the changes actually promote well-known, proven science facts."
The standards were approved Tuesday on a 6-4 split. Kansas has seen it happen before. In 1999, the board removed almost all references to evolution from the science standards, but two years later voters replaced three members and the board returned to evolution-friendly ones.