Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Changing the Board of Ed?

The AP reports that Lawmakers are talking about changes to State Board of Education:

When Corkins was named, some lawmakers began talking about passing a proposed constitutional amendment allowing voters to decide whether they want to abolish the elected board.

“If there is a backlash to this, it most likely will be questioning anew whether the Board of Education should be disbanded and replaced by a secretary of education named by the governor and confirmed by the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jean Schodorf said it’s beyond “likely.”

“I promise you it will be back in the next session,” said Schodorf, R-Wichita.
I'm not sure where I fall on this. Education shouldn't be a political football. There needs to be continuity at the state level, and uniformity. Much as I don't want Bob Corkins serving as Commissioner, I'd hate for him to get fired when the moderates take back control. It'd further politicize an already overly political office.

Changing the current system where voters in each of ten districts get to pick Board members is not a bad idea, but how to do it is tricky. Should we take power away from the citizens? Should we change the number or shape of the districts?

At a federal level, things that are supposed to be non-partisan have commissions appointed by the executive, confirmed by congress, and with a balance between the political parties. The last part would never fly in Kansas.

Here's one possible option: The governor appoints a Commissioner of Education as a cabinet officer. The Board is appointed to 4 year terms (renewable some number of times) by the governor. The legislature advises and consents. Retain the 10 districts, appointing each member according to districts, with some form of input from the legislators from the district. This would ensure a balance on the Board roughly proportional to the views of the public, represented by local legislators and the elected governor.

Another solution would be to eliminate the regional voting altogether. Just elect 10 people on a rotating basis, or elect 5 and let the governor appoint 5. Or increase the size of the districts and have them overlap each other. That would let each member represent more of the public, bringing the Board closer to the statewide mean attitude, and everyone would have a Board of Ed. election every cycle.

What do people think?