Feuding between the State Board of Education's conservative and moderate factions will be more "open and in the public" than in the past, but the winds of change may soon be blowing, a moderate board member predicted Tuesday.
Sue Gamble, a Republican State Board of Education member from Shawnee Mission, spoke at a University Forum sponsored by Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread.
Gamble was critical of the board's selection Tuesday of Bob Corkins, a 44-year-old Lawrence man, to be the state's new education commissioner. Conservatives approved his hiring on a 6-4 vote that left education advocates and others stunned. Gamble was among the minority who voted against him.
A member of the state board since 2001, Gamble predicted few of the department's 125 to 130 employees would quit in response to the hiring of Corkins.
"They are absolutely committed to the education and the best interests of the children of this state," she said.
Gamble scoffed at the board's ongoing debate over the teaching of evolution, noting that natural phenomena are now being explained in supernatural terms.
"Once you cross that line, you're into the realm of superstition - things like astrology," she said.
She joked that while some of her conservative colleagues had received messages from those who had experienced the supernatural world, she had not.
Gamble, who described herself as a "Nancy Kassebaum Republican," attributed the conservatives' ascension to voter apathy and a widespread distrust of government.
"These are some pretty committed folks," she said, referring to the conservatives on the board.
But the tide may soon turn, Gamble said, noting that four of the six conservative board members - Connie Morris, of St. Francis; Iris Van Meter, of Thayer; Ken Willard, of Hutchinson; and John Bacon, of Olathe - face re-election next year.
"Judging from the e-mails I'm getting, I think they're all vulnerable," Gamble said.
Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, also faces re-election.
Gamble's comments struck a chord with the University Forum, a group made up mostly of retirees, many with ties to Kansas University.
"These people are idiots," Ed Quick said of the board's conservative majority. "They're making buffoons out of all of us."