Monday, October 16, 2006
Ending the Embarrassment
Since 1966 at least 32 proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced in the Legislature to alter the powers of the board or eliminate it. Only three were put on a ballot. All three failed.
The editorial argues that despite the long history failure to change the board's powers, "placing education policy under the direction of the governor -- whoever that may be in the future -- wouldn't guarantee the elimination of those problems but it would provide greater stability in education policy."
The Capital Journal editorial board puts its finger on a number of problems -- all provoked by the current right-wing majority -- that have Kansans thinking about change once again:
- Recent large turnover in personnel in the Department of Education has been blamed by some on the conservative board members who voted to hire Bob Corkins as state education commissioner. Corkins has never worked in education. He most recently was operating a conservative think tank, causing moderates on the board to say he was selected for his political viewpoints rather than for his understanding of education issues.
• BOE decisions have become too political. Corkins' appointment is one example. Another example: new science teaching standards, compiled by science education experts, were rejected by the conservative board in favor of a standard that encouraged the teaching of "intelligent design" in science classes.
• The injection of religious concepts into the science curriculum has caused embarrassment for Kansas again. As happened when conservatives took over the BOE in 1999, national --and even international -- comedians and commentators began making fun of Kansas and its perceived backward ways.
The governor, the legislature, or the voters may, or may not, succeed where they have failed in the past in limiting the damage the board can do to the state's educational system. Whether or not that happens, there is one sensible step that can be taken to solve the problems of the past two years and ensure continuity for some time to come: vote radicals John Bacon and Ken Willard out of office and put moderates Don Weiss and Jack Wempe on the board.
An 8-2 moderate majority will put a stop to the lunacy of the past two years and begin to implement rational policies that support the state's schools rather than turn them into weapons in the culture wars. A moderate super-majority will make it nearly impossible for the radical right to take back the board in 2008, and that will ensure continuity for some time to come.