Kansas Senate Minority Leader Mike Johnston has a tongue-in-cheek response to harsh criticism from opponents of a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to alter the state's education system.
"When virtually all educational interests, all the embedded interests, find something objectionable with this amendment, maybe it ain't all bad," said Johnston, D-Parsons, who was the prime mover of the effort to place it on the Nov. 6 ballot.
In the 1990 legislative session, the Kansas Senate, by a vote of 31-9, and the Kansas House, by a vote of 101-20, decided to put the proposed change in educational governance to Kansas voters.
The amendment would change Article 6, the Education Amendment, of the Kansas Constitution.
The amendment would remove the constitutional language that guarantees existence of two education policy bodies the Kansas Board of Education and the Kansas Board of Regents.
The amendment directs the state legislature to provide for a system of public education that may be organized and changed by the legislature.
The Kansas Constitution now provides for an elected Kansas Board of Education, which has general supervision over elementary, secondary, community college and vocational school programs. The amendment retains the constitutional reference to locally elected school boards.
A nine-member Board of Regents, appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate, oversees operation of state universities.
THE AMENDMENT is opposed by both state boards, heads of all six state universities, the Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas Association of School Administrators, and gubernatorial candidates Joan Finney and Mike Hayden.
Connie Hubbell, a Topeka Republican and chair of the Board of Education, supports the status quo. The board should have primary control of education policy and the Legislature should determine financing of education, she said.
"Stability should be something that we remember when we talk about education in the state. The Legislature already has a great deal of authority over education. They can mandate programs. They have full control of funding," Hubbell said.
Robert Creighton, an Atwood Republican who is chair of the Board of Regents, said regents unanimously expressed their opposition to the proposed constitutional revision.
"IF SOMETHING isn't broken, don't try to fix it," Creighton said. "The Board of Regents is to be a buffer, a shield if you will, for universities, which must be free and independent from possible political intrusion."
The Council of Presidents, a group made up of the heads of the six regents universities, released a joint statement criticizing legislators for approving the constitutional measure at the end of the session without the benefit of public hearings.
KU Chancellor Gene Budig said the Legislature should await the findings of the governor's commission on educational governance and conduct hearings of its own during the 1991 session to determine if the education system needs to be modified.
State Treasurer Finney, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, opposes the amendment.
Gov. Hayden originally supported it, but changed his mind, he said, because the proposed amendment could allow the Legislature to tamper with the Board of Regents.
"WE REALLY need to reform the governance of elementary and secondary education. I wish (the amendment) hadn't gone so far," said Hayden, adding that he believes the Board of Education should be appointed by the governor.
Johnston said the Constitution allows no flexibility in governing education. That is evident in governance of community colleges and vocational schools, which should be governed by boards independent of the Board of Education, he said.
"We are prohibited constitutionally from providing a separate board for community colleges and vocational-technical schools. The Department of Education has about 200 people that work there. Only three deal with community colleges," he said.
Johnston said the amendment might not be the only way to try to achieve the changes that he said are needed in the state's educational system. However, he said if this amendment is turned down he expects it to surface again in another form.