Topeka — After getting an earful from school superintendents who oppose private school vouchers, the Kansas State Board of Education voted Wednesday to appoint a committee of superintendents to come up with other proposals to improve schools.
But the board's decision will not delay its January vote on whether to recommend the Legislature adopt vouchers, nor did it soothe a widening rift between board members.
On Tuesday, dozens of school superintendents showed up to let the board know that they opposed a legislative package by Education Commissioner Bob Corkins that would use tax dollars to send students to private schools, and loosen the requirements to start-up de-regulated charter schools.
On Wednesday, board member Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson, proposed having Newton Supt. John Morton lead a committee of superintendents to recommend more ideas to "reduce barriers in public schools."
His proposal was approved 6-3 with one abstention but not before board members tore into each other.
Referring to the voucher and charter school proposals, board member Kathy Martin, R-Clay Center, said she didn't understand why so many superintendents were opposed to "such minimal changes."
But other board members said Corkins' package was a radical departure that most public school officials opposed.
"Since when did public education and public school boards become the enemy?" asked Carol Rupe, R-Wichita.
Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., opposed Willard's proposal because she said the board should be able to consider it for a while and vote on it at the next meeting.
Waugh said when she was chairwoman of the board, several members upbraided her for considering motions that weren't on the board's agenda.
Connie Morris, R-St. Francis, replied, "I'm tired of inaccurate statements. Janet, what you said is just not true."
Morris started talking about a board action from last year, but Chairman Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, interrupted: "Connie, I'm not sure this is germane to this discussion. The last board we had a year ago is immaterial."