New state board tackles evolution immediately

Wagnon, as expected, is chosen chair

Just minutes after a new moderate majority took control of the State Board of Education today, the issue of evolution came back up.

The board voted to hear about proposed science standards that support evolution later in the day with a possible decision on them next month.

The issue produced a long line of speakers both for and against evolution during a public comment period.

Doug Kaufman, a physician’s assistant and pastor from Leavenworth, told the board that evolution “doesn’t stand up to real science.”

But supporters of evolution urged the board to change the current standards that include criticism of evolution and were put together by proponents of intelligent design.

Those standards were adopted by the 6-4 conservative majority in 2005. Now the board has a 6-4 moderate majority.

In other action, board members elected Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka, as their new chairman.

Carol Rupe, a Republican from Wichita, was voted vice chair, and Sue Gamble, a Republican from Shawnee, was elected legislative coordinator. All three are considered moderates.

After taking the chair, Wagnon urged members on the often contentious board to work together to improve the public school system.

“There are ways of promoting effective change without undermining confidence in it,” Wagnon said.