Friday, July 15, 2005

Something in the air?

An opinion piece in the Capital Journal says:
Another possibility -- one that has been discussed before -- would be to eliminate the board entirely and turn educational matters over to the Kansas Legislature, where at least political bickering is an accepted part of the process rather than a footnote to a sideshow.
The Winfield Courier suggests:

We need to take back our state school board from this embarrassing, holier-than-anybody bunch. Let’s get rid of them at the next election. Or abolish the elected board altogether.
And from the right-wing of the blogosphere, a pro-science blogger writes:

Just as the President of the United States appoints his Cabinet members and they are confirmed by the Senate, so too should the Governor of Kansas have the power to appoint cabinet-level ministers subject to Statehouse confirmation. Board of Education seats are big, easy targets for special-interest groups, like the church-activist groups Ms. Morris is so clearly allied with.
I could dig out other examples of this from the past 6 months, but I'm lazy, and three opinion pieces from across the state is a pattern, dammit.

I'm not sure what I think about this. While I'm pretty sure Gov. Sebelius would appoint reasonable people, and even Bill Graves (the Republican Governor in 1999) would not have appointed someone who endorsed creationism, I worry about this idea.

Tim Shallenburger is the guy who lost to Sebelius last time, and was chosen to head the state Republican Party. In announcing his victory, he said:

“When we voiced our beliefs that there is a God and said it was wrong to only teach evolution, we were ridiculed and called morons,” he said.
Had he won, he would surely have appointed an IDolator to run the schools.

Would such a person get through the Statehouse? Tough to say. Assume that the Senate alone would confirm the position. The senate is more moderate than the House, making it a more difficult hurdle right now. Of the 40 state senators, 11 voted against the compromise school funding plan, a good proxy for hard conservativism in the legislature (yes, yes, there are non-conservative reasons to gripe about the compromise, but it was a compromise between moderate Rs and the Ds). So a Secretary of Education would need the approval of 10 of the 16 moderates to get a majority. How many moderates would be prepared to buck their own party's leadership over evolution, a stance that would harm their own ability to bring home the pork and that wouldn't necessarily bring a lot of support from constituents?

The danger for a governor would be that evolution might become an issue for the campaign. But in the school board race, it's the only issue, and it's hard to avoid riling up people who wouldn't vote otherwise when the Board does something dumb. A generally good governor whose appointee pushes creationism might be able to sneak by, while a Board of Ed. member couldn't coast on other issues.

As I see it, the problem isn't that the Board's membership is elected, but that this particular Board got elected (well, I only have beef with 6 of them). The solution isn't necessarily to rewrite the constitution, but to throw the bums out of office!

(What does it say about me that I oppose so many constitutional amendment? Does that make me a (Burkean) conservative?)

The solution in the long run is public education. Pro-science Republicans (and allies) need to be out there taking back the reins of power, or they need to start voting for Democrats. Because right now, a vote for an Republican in Kansas is a vote for Shallenburger, and a vote in the State House for the conservative Doug Mays. It'd be like a hunter who supports gun control giving money to the NRA. Yes, you agree in principle, but your money will be used against you.

And scientists need to be out there explaining what we're up to. The public doesn't know what's going on right below our own feet.

Check out Oceans of Kansas for one example of what we have right here for people to look at.

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