Governor Takes More Active Role

From an editorial in the Wichita Eagle:

The governor names the Kansas Board of Regents. The voters elect the members of the State Board of Education. Rarely do the two panels meet, let alone collaborate. But this week’s first joint meeting of the two boards in four years could change that …. Both groups decided Tuesday to ask Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to create a new 17-member panel to study how to better align public education in Kansas — from preschool through postgraduate programs and into the workplace. She would lead the group …. Among other things, such a council could help make the state’s chief executive more than an onlooker of K-12 education — one glaring weakness in Kansas’ current governance structure. …

Weakness? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. After all, diversification of responsibility has some merits. It is built into the American political system, through federalism. This sounds, on the other hand, like something that will hinder innovation by reducing suggestions to the least-common denominator.

The offered rationale seems to be, however, that if we get everyone in one room, things can be improved:

“I think a lot of times we give legislators mixed messages from different groups and inaction is the result,” said Regents chairwoman Christine Downey-Schmidt, a former state senator from Inman. “This has great potential to create something positive for kids in Kansas.”

Of course legislators get mixed messages. Start with the fact that there are various interest groups, whose interests include financial self-interest, ideological interest, and add in competing visions of what education should look like, and the result will be … mixed messages. Should these differing ideas somehow be addressed outside the legislature?

Editorial writer Rhonda Holman seems to argue that the panel should decide policy for the legislature:

Some board members …. wanted to ensure the new council sufficiently represents business and the Legislature.

The last point is key. Business is the primary customer of Kansas’ public schools and colleges, and has a keen sense of what they’re doing right and wrong. And Kansas does not need another advisory committee, about education or anything else, making recommendations the Legislature will ignore.

Source: Panel to Study Preschool to Postgrad, Wichita Eagle, November 16

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