Can the three newly elected Kansas State Board of Education members move the agenda to the far right? We’ll soon find out.

While the much-hyped red wave didn’t materialize at the national level, Republicans took all five open seats in the Nov. 8 state board elections, gaining a seven to three advantage over Democrats.

The new board majority may move to advance more, and more rigorous, conservative positions. During the campaign, the three conservative Republican candidates’ views focused consistently on limiting discussion of gender, sexuality and race; banning books; and requiring all curriculum and materials to receive the parents’ approval before being given to students.

The three conservatives also supported “school choice,” a term that means allowing parents to claim the portion of state tax dollars going to their child’s education and use it for private schools or other not assessed nor audited learning expenses.

According to a report by KCUR the National Public Radio Kansas City affiliate, the conservative candidates’ campaign websites used similar language projecting a unified front on these issues.

In the past, KSDE board members have worked across party lines to support a moderate agenda, even though Republicans outnumbered Democrats on the board.

It’s not yet clear just how much the three new conservative board members can shift Kansas education agendas by moving the party that holds voting control toward national right-wing policies.

In general, the Kansas Legislature makes the laws governing K-12 education and it’s the responsibility of KSDE to carry out these laws including how curriculum is implemented.

November election results pushed the Legislature farther right and allowed Republicans to maintain a two-thirds supermajority. Nevertheless, Republicans, even with a supermajority in the Legislature last year, could not override a Parents’ Rights Bill or a bill prohibiting transgender students from athletic competition. Both bills were vetoed by Democrat Laura Kelly who will return for a second term as governor.

The November failure of an amendment giving the Legislature veto power to suspend rules and regulations written by executive branch agencies under control of the governor, also will make it difficult for a Republican controlled Legislature and KSDE board to make ultra-conservative changes in policies governed by state law.

Yet, the state board has considerable power to shape the way education laws are put into practice such as how subjects are taught, teacher licensure and graduation requirements.

Despite three of the open board seats going unopposed to Republicans, Kansans spoke through the election and the signal is clear. It’s time, within the legal framework of state and federal equity laws, to pump-the-breaks on school issues many in the public find unhelpful, such as explicit gender/sexuality education in Kindergarten to grade three classes.

There are serious issues to be addressed — teacher shortages; funding of special education; academic improvement, especially in math and reading in the lower grades — culture wars aside.

The hope is that relations on the state board don’t deteriorate, calm will prevail and special interests will give way to working through common concerns.

It really doesn’t matter which political party holds the majority of votes on the KSDE board as long as each of the members put the best interests of Kansas schools above party loyalties.

(6) comments

sail

The change that is needed in education will only be accomplished by enraged taxpayers demanding accountability. You cant rely on your state and local boards to be a fiduciary of the billions spent on a failing ,failed system,,, all you can expect from them is "feed me,,,, feed me" we need more money to combat this problem,,after all its for the kids.....................

cyberspace

Oh boy, get ready to lose more teachers. We already have a climate that is driving teachers from the profession and creating a significant lack of interest among youth who might aspire to be teachers. The tragedy is already playing out before our very eyes. It's another example of what's the matter with Kansas as some will contribute to the demise of what was once one of the greatest assets in our state, Public education.

sail

Ohhh how the education mafia has egg on their face ,,, how in the world can the education mafia expect to atone for their gross negligence ? Just saying “we’ll it’s for the kids” won’t pass the next frivolous BOND on an awakening tax payer !

LibertyTruth

Emporia School District abysmally bombed the 2022 state assessments. 1 out of 2 high school seniors failed to achieve even the lowest minimal standard in math. In reading and English 41% of our students flunked. Emporia scored 16% BELOW the average Kansas State Standard proficient level .

These outcomes are simply not acceptable.

Correction: No students are barred from sports in public schools.

There is a concerted effort to push for pornographic and sexualized materials and books in our schools and use the argument of "banning books" to push them into our schools, while many great works such as Shakespeare are actually being banned from public schools and universities.

It's time our public schools prioritize basic academics and allow our tax dollars to be spent on better institutions of education that are not failing our kids.

Mark W.

Wow, the editorialist has much more faith in Republicans on the Kansas State Board of Education than I do. Perhaps, we should concentrate on teaching children to read, write, math, computers, science, think creatively, and civics so that they know what this nation based on democracy is all about and so that they can compete in the 21st century economy?

burn'n daylight

Actually, we can only hope that democrats are not even close to education. Republicans will not let CRT be taught and will leave sex education to parents.

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