Archive for Thursday, October 6, 2005

Corkins mum on finance

Education commissioner doesn’t plan to back off conservative views

October 6, 2005


— A former anti-tax lobbyist took the reins of the state's school system Wednesday but would not give a clue which side he intends to take in the ongoing war over school funding.

"A visit I need to have is with staff attorneys," Bob Corkins said Wednesday as he settled into his new office at the Kansas State Department of Education and new $140,000-per-year job. "Until then, it would be inappropriate for me to comment."

His comments were made during a brief interview a day after he was selected by the 6-4 conservative majority on the State Board of Education.

The vote for Corkins, 44, of Lawrence, hit a raw nerve with school advocates, moderate Republicans and Democrats. They criticized the board's conservatives for appointing an ideologue with no background in education.

"I do not believe this gentleman is qualified to hold the position he's been hired to fill," said Sue Gamble, a moderate Republican board member from Shawnee Mission.

Corkins said he expected the fallout, but was not going to back off his conservative credentials.

"It's not unexpected," he said of the criticism. "But it is nothing I've ever shied away from before."

As if to emphasize that point, Corkins said he was putting together a transition team that will include Daniel Harden, a Washburn University education professor, whose Web site declares "Traditional Education in the Year of Our Lord 2005" and provides links to numerous conservative think tanks. Harden also had been one of the finalists for the education commissioner post; he could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Think tank leader

Corkins replaces Andy Tompkins, a highly regarded commissioner who resigned earlier this year and is now an associate professor at Kansas University. Corkins goes from being the sole staffer of two conservative think tanks to leading an agency with 212 employees that helps administer a $3 billion public school system with approximately 450,000 students and 40,000 teachers.

Corkins was leading the think tanks - Kansas Legislative Education and Research Inc., commonly referred to as KLEAR, and Freestate Center for Liberty Studies - when he applied for the commissioner's job.

He had no staff at either organization and operated out of a room on the second floor of a law office across the street from the Capitol. KLEAR was supported by corporate donations and membership dues from 72 legislators; Freestate was supported by donors, he said.

State Sen. Peggy Palmer, a conservative Republican from Augusta who founded KLEAR, said Corkins will make a great education commissioner.

"I think the education community will be pleasantly surprised," Palmer said. "They're going to find out that Bob is non-controversial and will put the children first."

Legislators paid $400 per year to become members of KLEAR and receive advice from Corkins on whether proposed legislation abided by the group's principals of limited government - free enterprise, individual liberty and family values - Palmer said.

"He probably knows education better than most folks," she said.

But Gamble was skeptical.

"I'm struck that the board has, in the past, been quite critical of the role of lobbyists in the legislative process and yet they've seen fit to hire one," Gamble said.

Controversial time

Corkins jumps into the education profession during a particularly contentious time.

One issue confronting state educators are the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires increased testing and annual academic progress. Corkins said he was no fan of that law and would welcome an attempt by the board to seek a waiver from its requirements, as some states have discussed.

And the school finance issue remains. Earlier this year, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiff school districts and issued orders that resulted in a $290 million funding increase this year; the issue is expected to return to the front burner during the 2006 legislative session starting in January.

Corkins said the State Board of Education remains a defendant in the lawsuit that was brought by school districts, which claimed the education finance system shortchanged minorities and disabled students.

"Our fundamental role and purpose is defined by that," he said.


Doug Harvey 12 years, 7 months ago

And Kansas education goes further down the tubes. 140 Grand a year!!! That's a CRIME!!!

captain_poindexter 12 years, 7 months ago

I agree paying anyone like an education commissioner $140,000 is a crime, regardless of who the person is or what their politics are.

anyone know what kind of authority the commissioner has? or what [he] actually does?

John1945 12 years, 7 months ago

Well, Wendt, given your background, you have been sort of a Justice League of America. Hey, if the shoe fits, I'm for it.

Now if you could just figure a way to bring a few more villains to justice.

I don't care if Corkins can't count his own toes. I just want to see someone in charge of the asylum that's not a stooge for the inmates. I want the same thing for the legal profession.

The KNEA and the Kansas BAR Association are both self-serving organizations that don't give a hoot about the public, our kids, or anything else.

From what I know of you, I'd sooner see you over the Supreme Court's disciplinary board than some pettifogging shyster, and the first step to reforming the educrat stranglehold on education may be a fresh face also.

If the educrats actually thought he was incompetent they wouldn't be saying anything.

captain_poindexter 12 years, 7 months ago

nice, Justice League.

just as long as you all have matching uniforms.

bobi 12 years, 7 months ago

We have schools where policemen must remain on duty and metal detectors are used to enter the buildings.

Something is very wrong with this picture.

I am an educator in Lawrence and I have pulled my kids out of the Lawrence public schools. There are many alternatives to living under the umbrella of the system we now have in place.

John1945 12 years, 7 months ago


I'll thank you to stop making references to work, job, or any other title which would give people the impression that we are somehow gainfully employed, or stoop to doing anything that is not a purely intellectual pursuit.

That will simply be enough of creating negative stereotypes of the people on this forum, sir.

And to Bobi:

Bingo, we live in a very sick society.

John1945 12 years, 7 months ago

Floodboy, have you considered a course in reading for comprehension? How about just a course in reading? Where in anything I've written do you see me suggesting that only the Christian version of anything be taught.

Indeed, have you checked the topic for the day? Are you aware of what it is we're talking about, and how many fingers am I holding up.

Also, the stupid "I bet you won't answer" crap is the kind of childish baiting that I pointed out yesterday went out with your pals who wore the pointy hoods and burned crosses.

For the JW staff, I really try not to be nasty, but since you haven't done anything to get this bigot and his idiotic baiting off the forum, this is what we're reduced to.

There's no argument in his posts, and given the writing style, this is about the third screen name he's had in about as many weeks. I know, because even in Lawrence there aren't that many completely brain dead religious bigots who are completely incapable of formulating any argument much less a cogent one.

You do your job and the rest of us will all get together and hum Kumbuya or some other hippy-dippy love chant.

John1945 12 years, 7 months ago

I was wrong. You're priceless. Don't you change a bit, and I'll do everything I can to see that your important messages stay on the forum.

You are truly the new liberal man. The flower of the left. A true example of public education at its finest.

Henceforth, whenever I talk about liberalism, I want one of your messages right close by.

I want you to know that if your messages disappear, it won't be because I blew the whistle on you. If I could I would display your messages for the world to see.

I'd put the one you sent to me privately tonight, but unfortunately, they'd blow it off. Do you have any comments you didn't steal from movie dialogue? You are just so precious.

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