Saturday, November 19, 2005


Harry McDonald: Restoring Sanity to the Kansas State School Board

Now that the right-wingers on the Kansas State School Board have redefined science -- over the objections of scientists and educators -- they are likely to turn their attention to school finance issues. The appointment of anti-tax crusader Bob Corkins as Education Commissioner, and the naming of culture warrior David Awbrey as as spokesman for the state's education department provide ample evidence of the new direction they intend to take.

Political partisanship and cronyism have replaced education and experience -- and, more importantly, wisdom -- as the necessary qualifications for job seekers at the state's education department.

Code words such as "scholarships" are now being used to describe vouchers. Charter schools are on the agenda. Some speak openly of dismantling public education in the state.

The painful irony for Kansans is that opposition to public education -- once the preoccupation of a few isolated individuals on the lunatic fringe -- is now being organized out of the State Board of Education and by the top administrators in the Kansas State Department of Education.

That is why it is absolutely essential for the people of Kansas -- the overwhelming majority of whom take justifiable pride in the state's history of support for public education -- to take the state school board away from the fanatics who now control it and put it back into the hands of experienced adults.

Next November, four of the six social conservatives who brought embarrassment to the state are up for election. Voters -- as they did in 1999 -- can put a stop to the nonsense. The recent election in Dover, Penn. can serve as an example.

Supporters of education throughout the state must do more, however, than wait for the November election to roll around. The far right has been raising money to finance candidates in the school board election. They have created a series of interlocked political action committees to skirt campaign finance laws in the state.

Once sleepy school board elections, most often run out-of-pocket by non-partisan candidates with a long history of support for and involvement in education, have been replaced by well-heeled anti-tax radicals running on an thinly-concealed agenda of hostility to public education.

To defeat them, the moderate majority must become active -- right now. That means actively working for, endorsing, and, above all supporting financially, candidates who will restore sanity to the state board of education.

Harry McDonald is such a candidate. McDonald, a moderate Republican is running for the seat now held by social conservative John Bacon in the 3rd District, located in east-central Kansas, in the August 2006 primary. He is retired Blue Valley High School biology teacher, and president of Kansas Citizens for Science. McDonald has been a leader in the fight to preserve real science standards in the state.

"The evolution debate is just a symptom of what's wrong with the State Board of Education," says McDonald. "My campaign is going to revolve around larger issues."

McDonald also pledges to support adequate state funding of the state's educational system. He will vote to have the State Board of Education do the same.

"Adequate funding should be determined by the actual costs of providing this education and not by the whim of the legislature," says McDonald. He also supports the right of local school patrons to provide any additional educational opportunities -- an important issue in this part of the state -- and to spend whatever additional money is necessary to provide these opportunities.

To win, McDonald believes he will have to raise nearly $100,000. He needs your help. RSR strongly urges supporters of public education in Kansas to support McDonald by writing a check to the Committee to Elect Harry McDonald and sending it to 11917 W. 143rd St., Olathe, KS 66062.

If you live out of state, as many RSR readers do, you should remember that much of the funding for the far right candidates will come from wealthy out-of-state donors who give regularly to right-wing causes.

Your contribution, here and now, may mean that you won't have to fight creation "science" and intelligent design in your own school district later.

In the coming weeks, Red State Rabble will feature other candidates across the state who pledge to restore our state's educational system to what it was before the right got their hands on it.


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