AUSTIN (KXAN) - The drama over the potential inclusion of creationism orintelligent design in Texas biology curriculum is over for now as acoalition of six Democrats and two Republicans defeated anamendment that would have maintained discussion of evolution's"weaknesses."
The Texas vote on evolution was in the crosshairs of both stateand national media this week because textbook publishers cater toTexas because of its high-volume purchases. If Texas chose to makesignificant changes to the science standards, other states wouldlikely be forced to follow suit. The standards, once approved onfinal reading in March, will stand for 10 years.
MemberCynthia Dunbar (R-Richmond) made the motion for thecontroversial amendment, which was to re-incorporate the phrase"strengths and weaknesses" into the discussion of evolution instate biology curriculum. That's the way the standard has been forat least 10 years now -- with no real problems -- but liberallobbying groups such as the TexasFreedom Network fought against the inclusion of the language,saying it had become a code phrase used by groups such as the DiscoveryInstitute to open the door to a discussion of intelligentdesign or creationism in the classroom.
Dunbar vehemently denied the issue of "strengths and weaknesses"had anything to do with religion. Instead, Dunbar said strippingthe language would stifle academic freedom and force teachers totell their students they could not discuss all sides to evolutionin the classroom. She also said current standards had never faced asignificant court challenge and were, therefore, safer.
Conservative groups have lobbied heavily against the change.During testimony yesterday, parent Angela Weissgarber accused thosewho wanted to strip the language of stifling free speech.
"Censoring our students ability to ask questions or participatein critical analysis in the theory of evolution smacks ofideologies that are not American," Weissgarber said.
Bob Craig, who voted down Dunbar's motion, said he was perfectlycomfortable deleting the language, since other language supportedevaluating all theories with scientific evidence. Craig said hedidn't want the science curriculum to be a repeat of last year'sEnglish-language arts vote, in which SBOE members choseto overrule the wishes of the state's English teachers ongrammar.
Dunbar's amendment failed initially, 7-7, as ReneNunez (D-El Paso) was absent from the meeting at the time ofthe vote. Later, Nunez returned and cast a "no" vote, 7-8.
Those who joined Dunbar included Terri Leo (R-Spring), scienceteacher Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands), Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas),Don McLeroy (R-Bryan), David Bradley (R-Beaumont) and Ken Mercer(R-San Antonio).
While his colleagues carefully refrained from the use of the "R"word - religion -- Mercer made passionate statements about theability of Christians to understand evolution but support othertheories. He noted persecution against Christians who failed to toethe evolution line.
That group of seven conservatives was enough for Dunbar to winher vote, as long as she picked up an additional Republican orDemocrat. However, two moderate Republicans -- PatHardy (R-Weatherford) and Geraldine"Tincy" Miller (R-Dallas) -- sided with the Democrats on thevote against the strengths and weaknesses language. Rick Agosto, aDemocrat out of San Antonio who is frequently the swing vote infavor of conservative motions, said he would have to represent theinterests of his constituents and chose to vote with theanti-strengths and weaknesses bloc.
This is only the first of a number of votes on the sciencecurriculum. Thursday's meeting was the committee of the whole.Friday, the full board will pass language on first reading for thestate's science curriculum. In March, the full board will passlanguage on second, and final, reading.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside a vehicle after the child's family was involved in a fender bender, DPS said.
Austin Police confirm they have located an 82-year-old women who went missing last night.
APD is responding to a 25 vehicle accident near the 5400 block of Ed Bluestein near Thurgood Ave.
A man is dead after being hit by several vehicles in the eastbound lane of Highway 71 Saturday night.