Topeka Bob Corkins' fortunes improved dramatically after conservatives on the State Board of Education hired him to be education commissioner.
Corkins, a conservative activist from Lawrence, will be paid $140,000 per year as the top administrator in the Kansas public school system.
That's $36,299.64 more than Kathleen Sebelius makes yearly as governor of Kansas.
And it's a "significant increase" over what he made before landing the education commissioner's job, Corkins said Thursday.
Corkins declined to reveal how much he had been making, but he released tax records for one of the conservative foundations he manned.
Corkins was the sole staffer of Kansas Legislative Education and Research Inc., called KLEAR, and the Freestate Center for Liberty Studies, both nonprofit organizations.
In 2004, the IRS exemption form for KLEAR showed Corkins was paid $25,100. It also showed the organization was supported by dues from members, and $5,000 from Koch Industries, the Wichita-based business conglomerate whose leaders bankroll numerous conservative organizations.
The Freestate Center didn't have to file an exemption form because it didn't raise more than the threshold of $25,000, Corkins said.
Corkins said he made more than $25,100 from KLEAR this year, but he declined to say how much and said those tax records have not yet been filed. He also declined to say how much he earned from Freestate and as an attorney who wrote a legal brief for the Kansas Taxpayers Network in the school finance lawsuit in opposition to court intervention in the case.
"I was like any self-employed guy," Corkins said.
Education Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a conservative Republican from Arkansas City, said he offered Corkins $140,000 per year because that was about what the former education commissioner, Andy Tompkins, made when he resigned earlier this year. Tompkins is now an associate professor at Kansas University.
Abrams said he did not discuss with Corkins what Corkins had been making.
"We had decided he was the best person for the job, and we think he is worth $140,000," Abrams said.
Meanwhile, criticism of the Education Board continued Thursday because of the hiring of Corkins, who has no professional education experience. He is best known over the past few years for lobbying against increased school funding and for other conservative causes.
"This choice shows, yet again, that a majority of the board would prefer to focus on side issues and partisan politics, at the expense of Kansas students and parents," said state Sen. Janis Lee, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee.
Abrams has defended the hiring of Corkins, saying he will bring a new perspective to the agency.
In selecting Corkins, the conservative majority rejected the current deputy education commissioner, a high-ranking education official in New Mexico, a rural school superintendent and a Washburn University education professor.