Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Intense Interest in Kansas School Board Elections

The political season is underway in earnest here in Kansas as candidates gird their loins for the August primary election. Both the Hutchinson News and the Lawrence Journal-World published articles analysing the races yesterday.

Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Journal-World sees the school board races as a hard to predict wild card in the bigger election:

At stake is the 6-4 majority on the board that has voted for science standards that criticize evolution, made moves to require abstinence-only sex education and hired Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, who had no background in education administration and has pushed for vouchers.

“The issues there are on the cutting edge of the cultural conservative movement,” Aistrup said.

Four seats of the six-member majority are in play. Incumbents John Bacon of Olathe, Connie Morris of St. Francis and Ken Willard of Hutchinson all face Republican Party challenges, and there is a GOP primary battle for the southeast Kansas seat being vacated by Iris Van Meter.

Kansas Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger said he didn’t know how those races would finish.

“You’re going to see which team has the most players,” Shallenburger said.

There are several ways to read Shallenburger's statement, but a confident prediction of victory, it is not.

Tim Vandenack of the Hutchinson News predicts an intense race for school board:
In light of many contentious moves by the conservative majority on the Kansas Board of Education, including the decision allowing for increased classroom criticism of evolution, critics promise a tough fight this electoral season.

Three conservative incumbents are up for election, including Ken Willard of Hutchinson and Connie Morris of St. Francis, and their foes, including the Alliance, are pushing hard to oust them.

A fourth conservative, Iris Van Meter of Thayer, is not seeking re-election, though her son-in-law, Brad Patzer of Neodesha, is vying for the post.

"I think it's maybe as intense as we've seen it, because 2000 was pretty intense," said Joe Aistrup, a Kansas State University political scientist.

Vandenack's article also takes a close look at a number of groups and individuals who are working to elect moderates to the school board this time around:
[Betsy] Hineman and others, however, suggest the passion this go-around might exceed that of 2000. Aside from last summer's evolution decision, recent contested actions include the selection of Bob Corkins as education commissioner even though he lacked education experience and moves to clamp down on what's taught in sex education classes.


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