Monday, April 03, 2006


Kansas: The State of Play

Members of the Kansas Board of Education representing odd-numbered districts are up for election this year. Four of the six theocrats who make up the current board majority face re-election, and all face both primary and general election opponents. If a single conservative loses, there will be a tie between moderates and conservatives on the board. If two conservative fail to win, moderates will take back the board and the disastrous policies of the last two years will be reversed. Here's where things stand now:

District 1:

Moderate Janet Waugh who represents Kansas City, Kansas is currently unopposed. Waugh has been a consistent supporter of quality science education in Kansas. She served for more than 15 years on the Turner Board of Education, including eight years as president. She also held state and regional offices for the PTA and the Kansas Association of School Boards. She was elected to serve as the State Board's Vice Chair in 2001 through 2002, and was elected Chairman of the Board for 2003-2004.

District 3:

Incumbent John Bacon is part of the right-wing majority that voted for intelligent design inspired criticisms of evolution. He voted to appoint anti-tax lobbyist Bob Corkins as Education Commissioner. John Vratil, a Leawood Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said Corkins' appointment seemed "sort of like making Saddam Hussein president of the United States."

Moderate Republican Harry McDonald, former president of Kansas Citizens for Science and retired Blue Valley High School biology teacher, will face Bacon in the August primary election. "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's website.

Moderate Democrat Don Weiss, a supporter of teaching real science in Kansas public schools, will face the winner of the Republican primary in the November general election. "How can we expect our children to receive a world-class education when the education standards proposed by the Board's Radical Right Majority are determined by personal ideology rather than common-sense?" asks Weiss. "The new standards have been so thoroughly rejected by education experts that the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association have withdrawn their support for those new education standards." Weiss' website.

District 5:

Right-wing incumbent Connie Morris supports teaching pseudoscience in Kansas public schools. She presided over the phony science hearings in Topeka last May. She also voted to appoint Bob Corkins, and to make it harder for kids to take sex education classes. Morris, who describes herself as a fiscal conservative, also submitted an expense report -- which included a $339 a night stay in a luxury Miami hotel suite -- for attending a magnet school conference. There are no magnet schools in Morris' district, however, her daughter lives near the conference site. After a public outcry, Morris said she would return the money.

Moderate Republican Sally Cauble will face Morris in the August primary. Cauble taught elementary education for 10 years, she served on the Liberal School Board for eight years and on the Southwestern College Board of Trustees for nine years. She believes intelligent design should not be taught in public school science classrooms, and the current science standards should be revoked. Cauble's website.

Moderate Democrat Tim Cruz is a former mayor of Garden City. In 2003, Morris falsely accused Cruz of being an illegal immigrant. Cruz is a third-generation Garden Citian. "I'm going to focus on what's best for kids in the community, for teachers in the community and for schools in the community," says Cruz. He opposes the antiscience initiatives of the current right-wing board majority. "Even though I’m a man of faith," says Cruz, "and because of my faith I believe that heaven and earth were created by God, I’m not in favor of teaching either creationism or intelligent design in a science class. These topics should be taught at home or at church." Cruz' website.

Disrict 7:

Right-wing incumbent Ken Willard voted with the rest of the theocratic board majority for the intelligent design inspired re-definition of science, the appointment of Bob Corkins, and the sex education opt-in policy.

Moderate Republican Donna Viola, the president of the McPherson school board, will face Willard in the August 1 primary election. Viola has said she would not have voted with the right-wing majority to weaken science education by introducing intelligent design inspired criticisms of evolution into the science curriculum. She also wants to get rid of Bob Corkins, who she says, hasn't got a clue.

Moderate Democrat Jack Wempe, former chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, legislator, and school superintendent has announced will face the winner of the Republican primary in the November general election. Wempe says he's “disappointed” by the state board’s push to de- emphasize the teaching of evolution.

District 9:

Right-wing incumbent Iris Van Meter, who previously ran as a stealth candidate, recently announced she will not seek re-election.

Van Meter's son-in-law, Brad Patzer, who recently moved to Kansas from northern Idaho, shares the ultra-right preoccupation with intelligent design and sex education that is making a laughing stock of Kansas. "I like the idea of knowing when somebody is going to be teaching my son or daughter how to put a condom on a banana," Patzer says.

Moderate Republican Jana Shaver taught for 27 years in the Independence school district. She will face Patzer in the August 1 primary. Shaver has a bachelor, master of science, and education specialist degrees from Pittsburg State University. She also served eight years on the Independence Community College Board of Trustees, and currently serves as president of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees. Shaver believes the current board majority "lost their focus when they started to look at narrow issues, such as evolution and the science standards. That's a very small part of the overall picture in science. Then they hired someone to be the commissioner of education who did not have experience in the field."

Moderate Democrat Kent Runyan, a Pittsburg State University education professor, says "religion and science are two different ways of viewing reality. They are compatible, not contradictory. Science deals with reason and testable observation; religion deals with matters of faith. I think we may open a Pandora’s box when we begin adding religion to our state science curriculum." Runyan's website.


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