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Back to the drawing board in Florida?

After a long and contentious wrangle, the Florida state board of education voted 4-3 at its February 19, 2008, meeting to adopt a new set of state science standards in which evolution is presented as a "fundamental concept underlying all of biology." But now there are concerns that, due to a recent state law, the standards will have to be approved again. The St. Petersburg Times (November 6, 2008) explains, "The new law requires the state Board of Education to adopt new academic standards by the end of 2011. That may include a new set of science standards, because the Board of Education adopted the latest standards a few months before the bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist."

It is not yet clear whether the standards will indeed have to be approved again, but Brian Moore, a staff attorney, with the state legislature's Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (which reviews the rules proposed by state agencies to ensure that they are in compliance with state law), told the department of education that he thought so. According to Education Week's curriculum blog (November 5, 2008), "It's possible, Moore explained, that Florida's commissioner of education could seek to have various experts certify that the recently approved science standards comply with the Next Generation law. But it appears likely that new standards would have to be re-approved in some form by the state board of education."

If so, the prospect of a renewed fight over the treatment of evolution in the standards looms. "Hallelujah" was the response of Terry Kemple, who opposed the treatment of evolution in the new standards. "This is an opportunity for both sides to step back and let this be a fairer endeavor," he said. Brandon Haught of the grassroots organization Florida Citizens for Science (blog) told the Times, "Maybe the legislators simply overlooked this and there's a simple solution," adding that the group would "hope for the best but plan for the worst." For now, the situation remains uncertain. A spokesperson for the department of education told the Times, "We are currently researching the matter so there are no specifics to offer at this point."