Archive for Saturday, November 19, 2005

State workers being quizzed on vouchers

Controversial commissioner accused of putting employees in tough spot

November 19, 2005


— New Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins' transition team has been asking State Department of Education employees whether they support private school vouchers.

In private interviews with employees, the transition team, appointed by Corkins after he was hired last month, has asked, "What is your general reaction to school choice, charter schools and parental empowerment?"

Some department employees confirmed to the Journal-World that they had been asked the question but asked to remain anonymous.

Christy Levings, president of the Kansas-National Education Assn., said the question was unfair.

"It's a difficult position to put state employees in," Levings said because Corkins is a known supporter of vouchers, which allows the use of state tax dollars to send students to private schools.

Corkins has said vouchers will improve public schools by providing competition and more choices for parents.

Corkins, and his transitional chief, Dan Harden, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the voucher questions being put to employees.

State Board of Education member Kenneth Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson, said he hadn't heard of such questioning. He said he didn't think it would be inappropriate to ask the question even though the board has not taken an official position on vouchers.

Board member Connie Morris, a Republican from St. Francis, said education department employees shouldn't feel threatened if they don't support vouchers.

"Since the board and department of education are addressing numerous issues, I hardly believe a difference of opinion on one of many projects would cause a colleague concern for their position," Morris said.

The KNEA and several other school groups oppose vouchers, saying it will rob funds from public schools and programs that are helping students.

Levings said the questioning of state employees about vouchers is part of an all-out blitz for a voucher program from Corkins and his 6-4 majority on the education board.

"There is obviously an agenda and it's 'we have six votes on the board and will run it as hard and fast as we can,'" Levings said.

That assessment was based on Corkins' public statements since his hiring last month and the people he has brought around him, she said.

Corkins went on a 12-city tour this week in western Kansas in which he promoted vouchers and charter schools, which are schools that operate independently of some state rules.

Interviews with people who attended the meetings said Corkins wasn't there to listen to the local concerns.

Corkins was hired by the 6-4 majority to the $140,000-per-year job even though he had no professional educational experience. He had been head of a think tank that worked against public schools.

After his appointment to the commissioner post, he hired Harden, a conservative professor at Washburn University, to lead his transition effort.

On Thursday, he announced the hiring of David Awbrey as communications director for the education agency for $76,000 per year. Awbrey, a former editorial page editor for The Wichita Eagle, often criticized public schools for resisting change.


Jeff Barclay 12 years, 5 months ago

Education is not like paying for roads. Parents ought to have choices when it comes to educating their children. Especially when they are fundamentally opposed to what is going on in a government school. Why shouldn't some of their tax dollars be returned to them as a voucher?

Godot 12 years, 5 months ago

""What is your general reaction to school choice, charter schools and parental empowerment?"

Ooooohhhh. Scaaarrryyy. How dare a boss ask a question that is pertinent to one's job?

Corkins, look out, your staff is out to get you. Of course, now you can't clean house because someone would cry "retribution."

These anonymous employees are quite cagey, yes, indeed.

By the way, Rothschild, your reporting sucks. You repeatedly rely on unnamed sources. Makes me wonder if you are just making stuff up.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 5 months ago

Questioning these employees on vouchers and other related issues is pure intimidation. This is not Kansas policy, and as such it is not important to the jobs these people have been hired to perform. Even if such measures become part of Kansas education policy (something the BOE has little if any power to implement) the personal opinions of these employees is still irrelevant.

Godot 12 years, 5 months ago

Okay, Bozo, so as your employer, I would not be allowed to ask you what you think of having sewers that back up vs sewers that work? That would be intimidation, right?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 5 months ago

If your job is to make the sewers work, it would be a pretty stupid question.

Your implication that only vouchers can make schools work is debatable. The place for that debate is in the legislature. It's not the job of the admimistrator in charge of public schools in Kansas to politicize the relationship between him and his employees as a way to force a change in policy on public schools.

Jamesaust 12 years, 5 months ago

Isn't this like a 1950's McCarthy anti-communist 'loyalty oath'?

tolawdjk 12 years, 5 months ago

It totally smacks of McCarthy-ism. "Hey, do you beleive what I believe? You don't? Hmmmmm, interesting. No, no. Don't worry, your job is "safe". But really, you don't think exactly like me?"

Where are these Charter schools going to come from? No one has built a public school in how many years in Western Kansas? And people are just going to magically create these to give these people a "choice"? Or is the next step to just say "hey, 51% of the families here want a charter school teaching Bible Physical Education. No one wants to build a new school, so we are just going to "sell" them the public school. You public school kids can just be bused to the district 40 miles away if they have bus money, or you can just use a voucher and stay here."

Where are the "choices" he is speaking about? You can barely get a math teacher in some schools.

james bush 12 years, 5 months ago

Thanks to the new Clooney movie, the libs can start equating everything they're against to being repressed McCarthyism-like monsters.

james bush 12 years, 5 months ago

wendt--- got ya, I could tell you'd been educated by holy-wood!

John1945 12 years, 5 months ago

Vouchers are the one answer to giving poor and minority children a chance at a decent education. With a voucher they can take anywhere minority children can leave the liberal plantation behind and let their talent take them where ever they want to go.

Take a look at KU and ask yourself the question "If Bill Self can find quality student athletes to come here from all over the world why can't the physics department, the math department, or even pathetic playgrounds like the education department?

KU sits within a short drive of Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas, but where are the minority students from those cities? Why is KU always stuck with a 3% minority enrollment?

The reality is that liberals do not want people of color mingling with them anymore than they want people of faith. Vouchers mean real freedom for the poor and the downtrodden and that's why the educrats don't want them.

What was the comment in Platoon, free your mind, your ass will folllow? That's exactly what the Democrat Party does not want to happen to the minority community.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 5 months ago

Hey John, here's an idea for you-- drive down to KC or Wichita, or wherever, find a minority kid, and give him a voucher already. Put you money where your keyboard is.

james bush 12 years, 5 months ago

Wendt--forget it---you aren't up to an innuendo

Moderateguy 12 years, 5 months ago

My old arguement against vouchers was, " I don't have any kids. I want my voucher for a new BMW!!" The effect of vouchers would be to even further penalize taxpayers without children. (taxes for everyone would have to rise.) Now I have a child though. The actions of the school board are thus even more sinister to me. The fundamentalists have always had an option for a private school to brainwash their kids into their particular version of crowd control by fear. Now even the public schools are being pushed in that direction.

Let's hope the legislature is wiser than these idiots on the school borad. It's pretty obvious they will do something with vouchers before the next election. Vote them out!!!

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