Published Online: April 3, 1996

State Journal: Surprise gift; No charge

Gov. Fob James Jr. has given Alabama's science teachers a gift.

Mr. James announced recently that he had spent $2,967 in state money on 900 copies of the book Darwin on Trial, and sent one to every public school science teacher in the state.

The book, which questions the theory of evolution, was given to the teachers as a "resource tool," a spokeswoman for the governor explained.

"It should be clearly understood that an attempt to improve science education by encouraging healthy and constructive criticism of evolutionary theory is not equivalent to teaching creation science or to bringing religion into the classroom," Mr. James said in a written statement.

But some in the state see the gesture as part of a push to stifle the teaching of evolution in public schools. Last fall the state school board voted to include a message in new biology textbooks stating that evolution is a theory, not a fact. (See Education Week, Nov. 8, 1995.)

"If the intention is to stimulate dialogue on what science is, I approve," said Ron Dobson, the president of the Alabama Science Teachers Association. "But I think the intention is to attack evolution as a valid idea."

Mr. Dobson said that some communities may decide to use the book in school. "I'm sure there will be pressure in areas where this has been made an issue," he said.

Some candidates run for office because they could use the work and the paycheck. Others are more public-service minded, but are still happy to be paid.

Carmine DeSopo, the superintendent of the Burlington County, N.J., special-services school district, says "I didn't even know it was a paying job" when local residents urged him to run for the state Assembly last year.

Mr. DeSopo, a Republican, was elected in November to represent the town of Burlington, where he heads a special district that serves about 1,200 children with severe disabilities from about 50 nearby districts.

New Jersey legislators are paid $35,000 a year. Mr. DeSopo earns about $120,000 a year as superintendent, and he didn't want to double dip from the public treasury. So he is donating his net state income to two projects in his school district.

One beneficiary will be the district's marching band, which will be able to travel to Toronto or perhaps appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Mr. DeSopo said. The other program is a camp for adult graduates from the school district.

--Robert C. Johnston
& Mark Walsh

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