TOPEKA, Kan. – Conservative Republicans who approved new classroom standards that call evolution into question lost control of the State Board of Education in Tuesday’s primary election.
A victory by pro-evolution Republican candidate Jana Shaver over conservative Republican Brad Patzer, who supported the standards treating evolution as a flawed theory, meant conservatives would at best have five of 10 seats on the board.
Five seats were up for election, the latest skirmish in a seesawing battle between faith and science that has opened Kansas up to international ridicule.
Conservative Republican John Bacon kept his seat by besting two pro-evolution challengers. But Shaver’s win split the makeup of the board between evolution supporters and opponents. She won a seat that was vacant because a conservative Republican evolution opponent was retiring.
The seats of two conservative Republicans who oppose evolution also were up for grabs, along with that of a Democrat who favors evolution.
Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat who opposed the new standards, defeated a more conservative Democrat who favored the anti-evolution language with 65 percent of the vote. One conservative incumbent, Ken Willard, held on to his seat, but another, Connie Morris, was losing to a pro-evolution candidate.
Morris’ race in western Kansas was the most closely watched. The former teacher has described evolution as “an age-old fairy tale” and “a nice bedtime story” unsupported by science.
Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which supports the teaching of evolution, said conservative victories would generate attempts to adopt Kansas’ standards elsewhere.
“There are people around the country who would like to see the Kansas standards in their own states,” she said.
The school board contest was part of a larger effort by the intelligent design movement to introduce its ideas in public schools.
Last year, in Dover, Pa., voters ousted school board members who had required the biology curriculum to include mention of intelligent design. A federal judge struck down the policy, declaring intelligent design is religion in disguise.
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