Ten Questions to Ask State Board of Education Candidates
Release: July 27, 2008
In 2008, five of the ten Kansas State Board of Education seats are being determined, with four facing no incumbent. What should we ask?
Not evolution versus creationism—equal time was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court a decade ago.
Not vouchers—that is a Kansas Legislature issue.
The future of K-12 education in Kansas is more likely to pivot on the following current issues:
Should Kansas adopt high stakes “exit exams” for students to earn a high school diploma? (The southern and coastal states require them. This has de-professionalized teachers and led to worse schooling.)
Should every high school student go to college? (Until the 1990s, less than half of Kansas high school graduates attended college. Now many leaders tout everyone attending college when many are not able to perform college level work. Technical schools are a valid alternative, and we need those skills.)
What is more important: good teachers, administrators, or programs? (If you have good teachers, you will have good programs. Without good teachers, no administrator or program can succeed.)
Who is responsible when a student fails? (The best of doctors lose patients and the best of teachers lose students. Contrary to NCLB, much of the responsibility for a student’s education lies with the student and with other factors outside the classroom.)
Do teachers need more content or more methods training? (You can’t teach what you don’t know.)
What is their position on No Child Left Behind? (If they support NCLB, ask them why they are running for State Board when NCLB dictates most of their policies.)
How about school consolidation? (The “c-word” can be anathema in small communities that would lose their identity without their schools. But in the last four years, the number of Kansas USDs has dropped from 303 to 295 as 16 districts faced the inevitable. Much money can be saved and even teacher shortages partially solved by moving to 50 regional Kansas school districts. Should school consolidation be fast and orderly, or slow and haphazard?)
Is it time to shut down the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar schools and educate all children online in the new digital age? (Kansans have the commonsense to see through this teckie cure-all but need to know if a candidate is gullible.)
Do teachers deserve more pay? (Maybe the economic turndown will prevent further pay raises, but a respect for teaching as a profession should be coupled with providing a salary that allows a teacher to send their own children to a state university.)
And how can we address the teacher shortage in Kansas? (Subtract points for any answer that begins with “I don’t want to lower standards, but....” And if their answer wouldn’t hold for addressing a doctor shortage, don’t accept it for the teacher shortage.)
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia.