Governor Kathleen Sebelius has largely stayed out of the educational battle that has swirled in Kansas over the last year. But she has stepped into the fray with a promise to restructure the Board of Ed if re-elected:
“I think we have a real institutional, structural problem in the state,” Sebelius told The Topeka Capital-Journal editorial board. “The elected school board that we have in place doesn’t function in this day and age. There’s very little accountability.”…
Sebelius said she has encountered people outside the state who have heard of the board’s decisions — and little else — when it comes to Kansas.
“Fred Phelps and the school board are all they know about,” she said. “No amount of economic development dollars can cancel that out.”
Her proposal is to make educational spending a function of an appointed secretary of education, with the Board taking on an advisory role, rather than a regulatory one. The idea has some interest from the State Senate, and ideas along these lines have been floated – and failed – before.
Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate Barnett defended the Board’s actions to the CJ, invoking the “balance frame” by saying “In a free society, it should be perfectly acceptable to question what is taught and to allow for differences of opinion. I believe it’s a disservice to limit the scope of what can be considered.” This assumes that science is just a matter of opinion, a truly dangerous position for a medical doctor to adopt.
He also made the claim that, in the CJ’s words, “Stripping the board of its powers … would cause voters to become disinterested in education policy.” Is there any evidence that voters are interested in education policy? That they are sufficiently informed about the underlying issues to make informed decisions?
In the absence of that sort of background, we’re stuck in the situation Sebelius describes, with “a disconnect among the board members. The board members don’t really have a very uniform agreement on where we’re going with education.” The problem is that the public has no agreement on education policy, or even what people are discussing. Policy people are talking about all-day kindergarten and how to handle standardized testing, while the public fights are over scientifically uncontroversial parts of the science curriculum.