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Online Science Materials Get SBOE Approval

State Board of Education members Pat Hardy, left, and George Clayton listen to testimony on supplemental science materials. The SBOE approved the materials for use this fall. Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

They did not have the money to adopt new textbooks. But the State Board of Education has approved supplementary online materials that will wind up in science classrooms this fall.

A socially conservative group of board members saw its power reduced, after the last election. So when the battle lines were drawn over how vigorously students should question theories supporting evolution, social conservatives did not push as hard as they might have two years ago when the standards were adopted.

“I don’t think there’s any question. Had some seats not changed, it would have been a different outcome,” Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican on the state board, told KUT.

But members of the socially conservative bloc say the science instructional materials going into classrooms this fall will still encourage students to ask questions about the credibility of theories explaining evolution.

“I think it’s a victory for my side, because kids have critical thinking,” Ken Mercer, a socially conservative Republican whose district includes South Austin, said. “And they can say, ‘What are those things that don’t always happen? Why is that?’”

Either way school districts will have nine different state sanctioned options to choose from for biology courses.

Meanwhile, a new law passed by the legislature gives districts the power to ignore the list entirely, as long as they teach the content that will be on the state’s standardized test.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.