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2 VOTES FOR NEW SCIENCE LESSONS

Including evolution in state standards gains another vote on the education board.

A second Board of Education member has come out in favor of the state's proposed new science standards, adding to the intrigue two weeks before the board vote on Feb. 19.

"I'm in support of the standards in the way they have been proposed," Akshay Desai of St. Petersburg told the St. Petersburg Times. "I do support evolution. There's not a question about that at all."

The current tally for the seven-member board now stands at two in favor, two appearing to lean against and three either undecided or unwilling to say.

The current science standards, put in place in 1996, do not mention the word "evolution" and instead refer to "changes over time." The proposed standards say evolution is "the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence." If the Board of Education approves, students will be tested on them next year.

In an interview with the Times in December, Desai, a medical doctor and businessman who was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, would not close the door on inclusion of alternative theories in the standards. But in an interview Monday, he did shut the door, saying such theories did not have a place in the science curriculum. "Maybe in some other classes," he said.

Asked for a prediction on the vote, Desai said he expected his fellow board members to approve the standards, given that they are "responsible citizens and knowing their desire to give our students a world-class education."

Desai joins board member Roberto Martinez of Miami in supporting the standards.

Board member Donna Callaway said two months ago that she was against the proposed standards, but she said Monday that she could not say whether her position is the same until she reads the final draft, which was released Friday.

Board member Linda Taylor of Fort Myers has not said how she will vote, but she has been sympathetic to arguments that call for inclusion of alternative theories.

As for the rest of the board: Chairman T. Willard Fair of Miami says he won't disclose his position until the meeting.

Phoebe Raulerson of Okeechobee says she is undecided. And the Times has been unable to reach Kathleen Shanahan of Tampa.

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