Split vote upholds Texas education board ruling

Split vote upholds Texas education board ruling
to ax evolution 'strengths and weaknesses' rule
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News - 3/26/2009 - original
AUSTIN A last-ditch effort by social conservatives to require that Texas teachers cover the "weaknesses" in the theory of evolution in science classes was rejected by the State Board of Education Thursday in a split vote.

Board members deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to restore a long-time curriculum rule that "strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories notably Charles Darwin's theory of evolution be taught in science classes and covered in textbooks for those subjects.

Voting for the requirement were the seven Republican board members aligned with social conservative groups. Against the proposal were three other Republicans and four Democrats.

The tie vote upheld a tentative decision by the board in January to delete the strengths-and-weaknesses rule in the new curriculum standards for science classes that will be in force for the next decade.

Those standards spell out not only how evolution is to be covered, but also what is supposed to be taught in all science classes in elementary and secondary schools, as well as providing the material for state tests and textbooks.

All three Dallas-area board members opposed the weaknesses requirement Republicans Geraldine Miller of Dallas and Pat Hardy of Fort Worth, and Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas.

Knight, who had heart surgery in February, cast her vote by video conference from the state education service center in Richardson.

A final vote will occur on Friday, but the outcome is not expected to change. One board member who was absent Democrat Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi will participate in Friday's meeting by video conference from Houston. She has already stated her opposition to the requirement backed by social conservatives.

Opponents of the strengths and weaknesses rule argued that it would eventually open the door to teaching of creationism the biblical explanation of the origin of humans in science classes. They also insisted there was no dispute in the scientific community about the basic tenets of evolution, including the gradual development of humans from lower life forms.

The seven board members and social conservative groups supporting the rule have argued that its absence would discourage classroom discussion about evolution. They have cited alleged flaws in Darwin's theory that they contend should be covered in classes and textbooks.

Board members were expected to continue review of the proposed curriculum standards for several hours on Thursday.