Kansas Board of Education needs reasonable voices

Kansas Board of Education needs reasonable voices
Kansas city Star Oct. 28, 2006

ELECTION 2006 | Kansas
In August, Kansas voters signaled that they wanted their state Board of Education to go a different direction.

The board majority has attracted national ridicule for voting to criticize the theory of evolution in state science standards. An incumbent who voted that way and a challenger who supported the vote were defeated in the primary election.

Two of the anti-evolution majority survived. They are Republicans John Bacon of Olathe in District 3 and Ken Willard of Hutchinson in District 7.

Both deserve defeat in the general election.

In District 3, the choice should be Don Weiss, an Olathe Democrat who says he wants to “restore dignity and respect” to the board.

In District 7, former Board of Regents chairman Jack Wempe, a Lyons Democrat, is a solid pick.

A state Board of Education that decidedly tilts away from the current panel likely would also revisit the decision to hire Bob Corkins as education commissioner. Corkins lobbied against more money for schools before being hired, and he is likely to lead the board in endorsing tax-supported vouchers.

Weiss is founder and former chief executive officer of an information technology training company. He now is an educator at DeVry University and has taught at Johnson County Community College. He believes the state board should focus on preparing students to compete in a global economy. He opposes the decision to hire Corkins.

Wempe is a former Kansas legislator and school superintendent who thinks the state board should improve its credibility with the public and the Legislature. He says Corkins did not have the appropriate experience when he was hired.

Willard, the incumbent, inexplicably defends incumbent Connie Morris’ expensive travels at taxpayer expense just as she is about to leave office.

In the 5th and 9th Districts, either the Republicans or Democrats would solidify the new progressive majority. In the 1st District, incumbent Democrat Janet Waugh of Kansas City, Kan., does not have an opponent.