Monday, January 23, 2006


Corkins' Extreme Team: Sometimes a Great Notion

In the early, heady days after he was appointed Kansas Education Commissioner, Bob Corkins, his transition team, and fellow wingnuts on the state school board -- aka the Extreme Team --had a truly brilliant idea.

They would sell scholarships vouchers to the people of Kansas. There was just one problem. They forgot to ask whether anybody actually wanted them.

Turns out nobody did, and now the voucher proposal is on hold.

It's no surprise that Corkins and the Extreme Team didn't bother to ask the state's moderate majority what they thought about vouchers. A bit more puzzling is the fact that they didn't bother to ask the administrators of private, religious schools -- the ostensible beneficiaries -- either.

“I was a little surprised to read in the paper that they were considering it,” Jack Herbert, principal of the Abilene Baptist Academy told Michael Strand of The Salina Journal. “I wondered who they asked.”

“My question is, if this is being proposed, I’m sure the impetus is from parents — but the people it would ultimately affect the most is the private education community — they ought to sit down and ask us,” adds Herbert.

David Awbrey, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Education, confirmed private schools were not involved in drafting the voucher plan, according to Strand.

“Certainly there was not a broad vetting process, a broad consultation process,” Awbrey said. He said he thinks it’s unlikely vouchers will be proposed again any time soon.
Don't worry about the wasted time, money, and education department resources, though. “It was a good learning experience for Bob that you just can’t do it alone,” Awbrey says.

Funny thing is, not only were the intended recipients of the taxpayer's largess not consulted, they don't even want to have anything to do with it.
“I’ve never seen government money that didn’t have strings attached,” said Janice Krause, principal at Salina Christian Academy.

“Our goal is to share Christ from a Biblical perspective through spiritual, academic and social experiences. We can do without government money — we are now,” she said. She said that the more state rules parochial schools must follow, the less difference there would be between them and the public schools.
Corkins and the Extreme Team tried to sell vouchers to the public by claiming that special education and at-risk students would have been eligible for tax-funded scholarships to private religious schools, but that's not a service they plan to provide:
For a student whose disability is severe enough to require one-on-one attention for the entire day, “We look to the public schools,” Krause said.

She readily admits that’s one reason — along with teachers willing to work for lower pay and a heavy reliance on volunteers — that her per-student costs are less than half the typical public school.
Like the group-think-intoxicated corporate team that decided to market Scrambled Eggs on a Stick, Corkins and his Extreme Team locked themselves in a hermetically sealed chamber designed to protect them from the dangerous influences of the reality-based world outside when they conceived the voucher and charter school sales campaign.

And, at least in this case, they've found themselves just as isolated from their base as they are from the rest of us.


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