Category Archives: Elections

SBOE Victor: Schools Need Even More Money

Sally Cauble, one of the new moderates who will swing control of the State Board of Education, handily defeated her Democratic challenger. Says the Southwest Daily Times, of Liberal, “Cauble added she would like to work with the Legislature to see additional financing for Kansas schools.”

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Ballot: Yes for School Building, No on Football Field

On Tuesday, the voters in the Circle school district (Butler county) approved $18.8 million worth of bonds for building projects, but rejected an $8.1  million proposal for an upgrade to the physical education program, including an artificial turf for the football program.

Make the SBOE an Appointed or Advisory Body?

Political news in Kansas often involves the State Board of Education, so it’s no surprise that it has become an issue in the governor’s race. Kathleen Sebelius called the board “an embarassment” in a debate with her challenger Jim Barnett.

“The governor said the current school board isn’t accountable to taxpayers, parents and business leaders. Its 10 members are elected and pick a commissioner to run the Department of Education.”

(She further tells the editorial board of the Topeka Capitol-Journal: “I think we have a real institutional, structural problem in the state. The elected school board that we have in place doesn’t function in this day and age.”)

Say what you will about the decisions of the state board, but what about the allegation that they are not accountable to taxpayers? Last we checked, each member of the board was elected. Recently, the board has made some decisions that have upset many people, and the composition of the board will change after the general election. The state board of education is at least as accountable to voters as local boards are, if not more so, given their higher profile. In addition, the state board, unlike local boards, has no authority to levy taxes.

What does Barnett say about the board? He would like to make the board have an odd number of members, so as to avoid ties. That seems reasonable. He also supports the idea of electing board members. We’re of no particular position on the question.

Governor Sebelius, on the other hand, proposes increasing the power that the governor’s office has on education. ”

Sebelius has said she will propose a constitutional amendment to allow the governor to appoint a secretary to oversee the Department of Education and make the 10-member board advisory.”

In all, education in the state is far too political. Granted, anytime that public money is spent, political discussions will ensure. But it would be better if more of the responsibility for spending were pushed down to people who have the most at stake in education–children, in the form of their parents and guardians.

The Capitol-Journal offers another rundown on the story, with a review of legislative proposals made concerning the board over the years. Three previous attempts to take power away from the board made it out of committee, only to die in final votes on the floor.

SBOE Guidelines: Much About Nothing?

Medical News Today provides a wrap-up of the school board primary election, focusing on the sex-ed controversy.

Here’s something that jumps out from the story: “The new policy does not penalize school districts if they decline to follow the guidelines.”

If the guidelines have no binding effect, why would anyone on any side of the sex-ed debate be concerned about what the board does?

State Board Race Wrap-Up

The votes have been cast and counted, and the results announced. What happens next?

The race drew the attention of the Washington Post and New York Times, of course. Due to publication schedules, no doubt, the Post didn’t say much. In a pre-election piece emphasizing the science controversy, the Times reminds us of the history board flips: 1998 (“conservatives win”); 2000 (“moderates win”); 2002 (5-5); 2004 (“conservatives win”), and finally, 2006.

USA Today, meanwhile, continues the science theme with the headline “Evolution Opponents Lose Control.”

The Kansas City Star provides percentages for each district. The Lawrence Journal-World offers this lead: “Darwin won.” The comments section is often filled with lots of name-calling all around; this particular day seems to have set a record for comments pulled by the LJW’s staff, suggesting that moderation in tone is in short supply.

SBOE District 7 Highlights Differences in Opinion

The McPherson Sentinel offers up a review of the State Board of Education primary race in district 7, between M.T. Liggett, Donna Viola, and Ken Willard, incumbent.

Among the topics: science standards, sex-ed requirements, department commissioner Bob Corkins, charter schools, and vouchers.

Viola’s opposition to charter school expansion is based on a preference for “local control.” But what could be more “local” than a parent? It’s time for charter schools to have an alternative to the local school board when it comes time to getting an authorization.

Men Who Would Be Governor

The Kansas City Star offers soundbites from several of several candidates running for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor.

Among the interesting comments:

“He wanted larger classes in high schools so students could better compete once they began attending universities, which often have large classes.”

KE: We believe that the benefits of smaller classes can be oversold. But this may be the first time we have heard someone argue for larger classes.

“Administrators ‘are making way too much money,’ he said.”
KE: It’s probably true that some administrators are making more than many people would like. But a more important question is the number of administrators. And even more important than that is  whether schools wisely spend the rest of their budgets. Administrative salaries are but a portion of district finances.

“He said he supported automatic increases to school funding ….”

KE: This sounds kind and pro-child. But even good intentions cannot erase the problems of a bad idea. There are at least two means of providing fiscal oversight: make legislators approve funding increases, or make voters do it directly. Why would we let any unit of government get a pass on accountability?

Improving Student Performance, Charter Schools

The Kansas City Star has a story highlighting Janet Waugh (State Board of Education incumbent) and her primary election challenger, Jesse Hall.

Waugh, the incumbent, sees steady progress in student achievement in the four counties she represents.

“For my district, education is the only escape for many children from a life of poverty or crime or, frankly, death at a young age,” she said. “I’m passionate about all children being educated.”

Waugh is right: education is very important. Children who don’t get a good education can end up in serious trouble. The costs can be high for the student and society as a whole.

Hall, however, is alarmed by the dropout rate in the district and across the state and wants schools to focus more on the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

“If we can lower the dropout rate, go back and teach the basics, then we’ll have a much-improved local economy,” he said.

It’s easy to find things to agree with here as well. Drop-outs are at a scandalous rate. Too many students don’t know the basic of reading and math (see the National Assessment for Education Progress).

So how do we get there?

Hall, we learn in the article, supports making it easier for charter schools to open up. Currently, charter applications must be approved not only by the state, but by the local district.

Under the current law, anyone who wants to start a charter school must ask “Dear local school board. We’d like to open up a school that will result in some of your students leaving your schools. Their money will leave with them. How about it?”

Not exactly a formula for promoting the use of charter schools.

Waugh, by contrast, opposes the move, saying that it’s a matter of “local control.”

But as the ongoing political and legal controversy over funding goes, the state has a significant role to play in education. So it’s not merely “local control.” More appropriately, policy makers should increase student and family control.

You’ll Eat Wonder Bread and You’ll Like It!

The folks at Missouri’s Show-Me Institute have an interesting take on the controversy surrounding evolution, the state board of education, and schools.

Here’s an excerpt that does a good job of looking at it all from a different point of view:

“Imagine you live in a town where you are required to pay several thousand dollars of taxes each year into a public fund that is used to buy food for the entire community. There is a publicly elected “Menu Board” that determines each year’s offerings. You wanted rye this year? Sorry! The Board voted for Wonder Bread. Again! You could, in principle, opt out of the public food system and buy rye, pumpernickel, or seven grain oat-nut crunch at a fancy private store. But you’ve already paid thousands in taxes, and can’t afford to pay twice for everything you eat. The Menu Board picks it. You eat it.”

KNEA Funnels $25,000 into SBOE Race

In an article about the curriculum controversy, the Kansas City Star notes that the teachers union, the KNEA, has put $25,000 into the State Board of Education race.

Teacher unions, of course, are against vouchers and other significant forms of school choice.

SBOE Election Review: District 7

The Wichia Eagle gives a short review of the candidates in the SBOE election for district 7. The Pratt Tribune offers a more extensive coverage. (The KSDE web site has a state map that shows the different districts.)

More on the Elections

The Hutchinson News comments on the district 5 race between incumbent Connie Morris of Saint Francis faces and primary challenger Sally Cauble. Topics included evolution and the education of illegal immigrants.

Morris endorsed English language immersion over bilingual education. The News doesn’t say what Cauble would favor. Too bad, for thoughtful people can disagree, and it’s a topic that merits more attention.

Meanwhile, the Southwest Daily News runs with a profile of Morris. As you might expect, the science standards get heavy play.

All this reminds us of the silliness that sometimes obtains when decisions about schooling are made by politicians rather than parents.

Local Control?

The KC Star has an interesting story on the coming election. In one race at least, the question comes down to “who is more in favor of local control, and what does that mean?”

It just might be better if control is more local than not. After all, our national political system is based on federalism, the principle that some responsibilities should be as local as can be.

When it comes to education, there’s nothing more local than the role of a parent. How about some increased power for parents to decide their own children’s education? Why is having 10 elected people in Dodge City better than having 10 elected people in Topeka make decisions?

We saw this description of the views of Harry E. McDonald III, a candidate for the SBOE. We don’t mean to pick on him–doubtless his views are held by many.

The current charter-school law allows flexibility to meet needs determined by local boards. The effort to give failed applicants an appeal demonstrates a lack of respect for local boards, he said.

Respect for local boards? It would be great to have some more respect for parents by giving them more flexibility, by, say, making charter schools more accessible.

Waugh to Run for Re-election

Janet Waugh, one of the four members in the minority on the State Board of Education, has announced plans for a re-election campaign.

Waugh says:

Instead of focusing our attention on the crucial issues facing Kansas such as continuous improvement, closing the gap, raising graduation rates, increasing test scores and making sure all students achieve at high levels, the board has spent its time debating issues that will do little to help schools and students.
She certainly has addressed key issues: facing the achievement gap, less-than-ideal graduation rate, and improving student achievement.

We suspect–it’s been a while since we’ve paid attention to the preferences of individual board members–that she’s against many of the proposals to increase competition and choice, such as charter schools.

Candidates Clash

Two candidates for the State Board of Education participated in a debate held at Johnson County Community College. As you’d expect, science standards were a topic of discussion–the only one, if you read this account of the KC Star.

Granted, journalists like to focus on controversy. We hope that there were other important topics discussed at the forum, though we’re not sure that was the case.

Democratic Challenger in SBOE Contest

The Lawrence Journal-World has a story on Jesse Hall, who is running against Janet Waugh for the State Board of Education in the Democratic Party primary. As usual, curriculum takes center stage.

SBOE Election Review

The Kansas City Star’s David Keppler offers are review of the fall elections.

We’d like to think that all sides could put aside controversies of evolution and sex education, and instead look at ways of giving parents more choice in the selection of schools.

But next to those topics, questions of how to efficiently deliver education or what makes for an effective charter school are pretty uninteresting.

School Elections Tomorrow

The Hutchinson News reminds us that Some voters might face special questions at polls on Tuesday. Voters in Dodge City and Marion-Florence, for example, will say yay or nay to bonding proposals. But to boost voter participation, school votes ought to be placed on general election ballots in November.