Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Kansas Right Wing Ups the Ante

The theocratic right has been making some new pushes in Kansas in the last week. The anti-abortion Operation Save America brought their protests to Wichita high schools intimidating students and alienating parents. Not to be topped, the State Board of Education hired a new state Education Commission, who has no experience teaching or adminstering education or a large scale institution. The new Commissioner is an opponent of additional funding for schools and an advocate of vouchers.

Here's the Wichita Eagle report on the protests.

Protesters from Operation Save America gather outside West High on Thursday and plan to rally at another school today.

Abortion protesters carrying banners and signs, handing out leaflets and talking through loudspeakers greeted students at West High School on Thursday morning.

The protest riled students, parents and neighbors alike -- but it broke no laws, Wichita police said.

"They were out exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech," Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said of Operation Save America, which is holding what it calls a "regional event" in Wichita through Saturday. "People have a right to picket and protest, and they're exercising their right."

The Eagle slammed the BOE in a Sunday Editorial

Bob Corkins is Kansas' education commissioner -- five days later, the 6-4 hiring decision by the Kansas State Board of Education still confounds.

How could someone as lacking in credentials as Corkins be chosen to replace someone as revered across the state and ideological spectrum as Commissioner Andy Tompkins?

The problem isn't with Corkins. He is a smart guy. Rather, the problem is with the state board's majority conservatives, who ended a torturous hiring process by flouting the board's own search guidelines, running off a national advisory group, and hiring somebody apparently based on ideology alone.

No education diplomas or classroom experience. No understanding of a complex state agency with 200 employees and oversight responsibility for 300 school districts, 450,000 students and $3 billion. No real grasp of the deepening demands of the federal No Child Left Behind law or the best strategies for closing the achievement gap between white and minority students. No management experience. And no business landing a $140,000-a-year job as Kansas' education czar and advocate.

Less government is a noble cause. Government needs more people who espouse and practice it. But Corkins was the wrong guy for a crucial job, and the board's decision was an insult to the state's local school boards, teachers, parents and schoolchildren, as well as to common sense.

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