Kansas prepping for another evolution debate

? A State Board of Education member who is troubled by science standards being developed that treat evolution as a core concept said Tuesday he expected a vigorous debate on the issue again.

Just not yet.

Kenneth Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson, earlier this month questioned proposed Next Generation Science standards.

During the board’s update Tuesday on those standards, Willard said those comments were blown out of proportion and that he was hammered for being a “crackpot” or “kook.”

But, he said, he also heard from many people who also are troubled by teaching evolution.

“It’s not a bunch of Kansas crazies that has brought this up,” Willard said. “It’s broader.”

To his critics, Willard said, “Many are worried Kansas will be embarrassed,” by another debate over evolution. He said he couldn’t imagine why anyone would be embarrassed “by trying to get to the truth.”

From 1999 to 2007, evolution was almost a constant focus of contention on the 10-member board until standards were adopted that reflect mainstream scientific views on evolution. During that time, Willard had been a consistent vote with those who questioned evolution.

Other board members on Tuesday downplayed the update on developing science standards.

“Today is no different than any other meeting,” said Board Chairman David Dennis, R-Wichita.

Board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said she has not received one phone call or email recently concerning evolution.

Kansas is one of 26 states involved in developing the science standards.

Matt Krehbiel, science education program consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education, said a second public draft of the document probably won’t be ready until late this year.

Krehbiel said he thought the board would probably have to consider the standards by spring 2013. By then, it is possible six of the board’s 10 members could be new. Five of the board seats are on the November ballot, and Willard, whose position is not on the ballot, is leaving to run for the Kansas House. If he wins, he will have to give up his board seat.