Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Connie Morris on Bob Corkins

When the final 5 candidates were announced, I wrote to the Board, expressing my concerns.

After a few weeks, Connie Morris worked through her backlog and wrote back. Here are some highlights.

Mr. Corkins has devoted much of his life developing a positive business climate in Kansas – a MUST if we are to hope for an economic future that competes and can support our schools; he is a leading expert in education funding and has first-hand knowledge of the workings of the Kansas legislature – also a MUST if the SBOE is to build a positive working relationship with those in the statehouse.  He offers legal expertise per education lawsuits and has had national exposure as a top-rate policy analyst.  I believe his selection is a sign of the changes that education has been forced to embrace.  The decision was a tough one to come to, as many applicants were highly qualified in various ways.  But Mr. Corkins, in my opinion, offers the vision and Kansas grounding this state needs.
My husband and I own a small plumbing, heating and AC business.  I am the sole administrator of the business and without my management it would not succeed.  Yet, I know nothing of the science of plumbing, heating and air conditioning
My emphasis. Her letter was surprisingly polite, so I feel bad pointing out that she also knows nothing of science, but she gets to administrate science standards for the entire state. Arguing that everyone around you should be as incompetent as you are is hardly a sensible standard.

The first quoted sentence makes no sense whatsoever. The Commissioner of Education is responsible for schools, not economic development.

As for "the changes that education has been forced to embrace," the finger of blame for those forces points to … Connie Morris and her allies.

Then we come to the legislature. Let's see what they say about him:

The former chairwoman of the Senate Tax Committee Audrey Langworthy, a moderate Republican from Prairie Village, banned Corkins from her office in the late 1990s.

Langworthy said Corkins was argumentative and under-handed. “Bob was definitely working with the ultraconservatives in the House,” Langworthy said.

Sen. Janis Lee, of Kensington, who has been the ranking Democrat on the Senate tax committee for 17 years, said Corkins was sometimes confrontational and disrespectful when testifying to the committee.

Lee mentioned the run-in between Langworthy and Corkins.

Grant, who was vice president of the chamber at the time , said there was “bad blood” between Langworthy and Corkins. He said the incident arose when Corkins was trying to work out differences in a bill between Langworthy and former House Speaker Tim Shallenburger, a conservative Republican.

Grant said Langworthy perceived that Corkins was acting as an advocate for Shallenburger.

Former Senate President Dick Bond, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, said he remembered legislators unhappy with Corkins.

“I do recall many of the (tax) committee members didn’t have a lot of respect for his testimony and questioned at times the information he gave the committee,” Bond said.

Langworthy said she had no recollection of having any pleasant conversations with Corkins after she banned him from her office. She said Corkins was the only person in her more than 15 years in the Senate that she asked not to come back to her office.
Senate and House leadership and education committee leadership have been pretty negative (or at least skeptical) about Corkins, too.

Former Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said he was "shocked and saddened" at Corkins' selection.

In making decisions on divisive issues, he said, legislators learn to value accuracy and open-mindedness.

"That's not something I thought I had seen with Mr. Corkins over the years," he said.
And if they need a lawyer, hire one.

"Leading expert on education funding"?

Jim Edwards, a former [Chamber of Commerce] lobbyist who now works for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said Corkins’ philosophy didn’t fit the chamber’s philosophy at the time [when Corkins left the Chamber in 1998].

“During that time there was a strong interest and support of public education and highways. Those things cost money. Bob has always felt that taxes should be lower,” Edwards said.
Doesn't sound like his expertise was very welcome.

Ah, well, life moves on.