Hutchinson Bob Corkins continues to face questions about whether he's qualified to be education commissioner and whether he's getting paid too much.
Corkins, starting his third month as commissioner, found himself defending his background during a meeting with teachers, administrators and interested citizens Monday at Hutchinson High School.
He is the state's first top school administrator in more than 80 years not to have served as a local superintendent first. Before the State Board of Education hired him, he had run two small conservative research organizations, opposing large increases in school funding and advocating vouchers and other school choice initiatives.
"Just because I don't have an education degree doesn't mean I don't have the appropriate skill set for the job," Corkins told his audience at Hutchinson High. "No person running any agency is running a one-man show."
But Hutchinson resident Art Henry said he wonders why the state board thinks it's wise to hire Corkins and pay him far more than the governor. Corkins' salary is $140,000, compared with less than $104,000 for Sebelius.
Board member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, defended the salary, noting it was slightly less than what the former education commissioner, Andy Tompkins, received when he left the job in May. Willard added that many commissioners have earned more than the governor.
Corkins was hired by the board's 6-4 conservative majority, including Willard, who said he's disappointed public meetings with Corkins have become adversarial.
"Ordinarily," Willard said, "you would think people in education would be open to new ideas."
But Corkins has upset many educators by pushing proposals designed to allow more charter schools and to create vouchers, giving parents of at-risk and special education students $5,600 a year and allowing them to send their children to the school of their choice, public or private.