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Creation Science Pending In Louisiana and Arkansas

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Education officials in Arkansas and Louisiana, where the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging state laws requiring "balanced treatment" of creation theory in the schools, are beginning to think about how they will implement those laws if the legal challenge fails.

But some of the officials, in the words of one, do not yet "have our heart in the program, so to speak."

So far, laws requiring balanced treatment for "evolution science" and "creation science" have passed in those two states only, but similar laws are likely to be proposed in others.

The Arkansas law, which goes into effect during the 1982-83 school year but permits schools to give balanced treatment now, will come to trial Oct. 26. Education officials are awaiting the outcome before taking any action to implement its provisions.

Says Sherman Peterson, associate director for instruction in Arkansas: "Until then we are not going to take any action to implement the decision. No cost estimate has been made because local school districts are going to have most of the responsibility for implementation."

Dan V.L. Pinkleton, assistant superintendent of the Arkansas Department of Education, says that certain implications of the legislation--for example, just what the term "balanced treatment" will mean in practice--have not yet been examined.

Providing Curriculum Guides

The Louisiana law differs from the Arkansas version only in a few details. It provides for a seven-man committee of "creation-scientists" to provide "resource services" in the development of curriculum guides requested by any city or parish school board.

The governor appoints the committee, which may or may not be solely responsible for implementation, but state department of education officials expect to be called upon for advice in any case, and are preparing well in advance.

Donald W. McGehee, science supervisor of the Louisiana State Department of Education, is currently reviewing textbooks, lesson plans, "curriculum models," and a full proposal from one organization that he says is "interested in advising us on putting creationism into the classrooms."

Mr. McGehee, who is openly opposed to Louisiana's new creationism law, says local disticts in his state traditionally depend heavily on the state department of education for leadership.

"We could divorce ourselves from any involvement, but because we are in a leadership position, it is our responsibility," he said.

No State Funding

The Louisiana legislature did not want to fund the program at the state level, and the new law's legislative sponsor reportedly had to assure legislators that the cost would be picked up at the local level, Mr. McGehee added.

"That was done," he said, "without any particular research in terms of what other programs would be affected." For the first year at least, unless additional funding is legislated, money for implementation expenses will have to be diverted from existing local programs.

"We're going to have problems dealing with this stuff," Mr. McGehee said, adding that statewide costs could range from $1.8 million to $7 million, depending on "how intensive implementation will be."

A committee set up by the state superintendent will first determine where evolution concepts are being taught and then whether they will subsequently have to be balanced. Mr. McGehee points out that evolution is taught as early as the fifth grade, and reference is made to it in many disciplines.

The $1.8-million estimate covers the cost of curriculum development, library materials, and in-service workshops for teachers.

"That can go as high as $7 million when you're dealing with purchasing materials for student use," Mr. McGehee said.

The law will also affect Louisiana Act 750, passed in 1979, which established a Competency-Based Education Program. Also in its implementation stage, the act requires that minimum standards be developed in all required subjects.

"When we develop minimum standards, teachers will have to be instructed in them," Mr. McGehee explained. "Now, will there be minimum standards of creation science? If so, teachers will have to be instructed in them, too."

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