Wagnon says SBOE to act on evolution in February

Bill Wagnon, a Topeka Democrat, was elected Tuesday to chair the new moderate-controlled Kansas State Board of Education.

And it didn’t take long for him to get rolling – it’s likely Kansas will soon go back to science standards that no longer downplay the role of evolution in biology, Wagnon said.

“We will act on those in February,” Wagnon said.

Wagnon, whose 4th District includes Lawrence, was picked by his peers to lead the 10-member board, which sets education policy for the state.

His election came a day after the two new members, Sally Cauble, Liberal, and Jana Shaver, Independence, joined the board, giving moderates a 6-4 edge over conservatives.

On Tuesday, moderates on the board asked for Steve Case, a Kansas University science researchers who chaired a committee that developed science standards supporting evolution, to bring the board back the changes that will be needed to reverse the science standards pushed through by conservatives in 2005.

He said it was important to get them changed quickly because the state needs to develop new statewide science tests for 2008.

“Since the tests are based on curriculum standards, the majority of the board feels that we need to have the best possible set of curriculum standards,” Wagnon said. “We believe that Steve Case’s committee has produced those. And I would expect those will be adopted.”

The main change will concern the definition of science and how science is to be applied in the classroom, he said.

“Evolution will be only one of the issues,” he said.

However, Wagnon said his first order of business will be to begin a national search for a new education commissioner to replace Bob L. Corkins, Lawrence, who resigned in November.

The state board will hire the National Association of State Boards of Education to help in the search.

“We hope to have a commissioner on board by at least the April board meeting,” Wagnon said.