Monday, November 07, 2005


Handicapping the Kansas State Board of Education Election

With the Kansas State Board of Education poised to give final approval to new science standards critical of evolution this week, some are already handicapping the next state school board election set for a year from now.

Next November, half of the board's 10 members are up for election, including four of six conservatives who have pushed to adopt the new standards. Already, two moderates, a Democrat and a Republican, have announced they will run against conservative lightning rod Connie Morris. Harry McDonald, president of Kansas Citizens from Science, is running against conservative John Bacon, of Olathe.

More moderate opposition to sitting conservatives is expected in the coming months.

If, as in 1999, conservatives lose control of the state board, all their plans to change the science curriculum may come to nothing.

Polls show that many Kansans -- like most Americans -- support teaching alternatives to evolution such as creationism and intelligent design. Even so, many are beginning to wonder if state residents aren't beginning to tire of the continuing focus on this single issue -- and being the butt of jokes on late-night television.

Other issues, such as a controversial expense report filed by board member Connie Morris for a trip to Florida that included a stay at a luxury hotel, the appointment of Bob Corkins -- a man with no training or experience in education -- as Education Commissioner, and a proposal to let students opt out of sex education classes, have also alienated many voters.

Don Hineman, a rancher in Western Kansas -- the area represented currently by Connie Morris -- and leader of a newly formed group called Kansas Alliance for Education, believes there is widespread support from mainstream Kansans to make changes in the State Board of Education.

Challengers could succeed, Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka, recently told Steve Painter of the Wichita Eagle, if they focus on the talk-show jokes and other negative attention the debate has brought to Kansas.


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