The Kansas State Board of Education today confirmed the hiring of Bob Corkins as the new education commissioner at a salary of $140,000 plus benefits.
But the board, meeting in Lawrence, took no action on Corkins' earlier request to hire a consultant for $15,000 to help him in the transition to his new job.
The appointment of Corkins of Lawrence has touched off a public furor.
Corkins has no background in education, and has spent the last few years lobbying against school funding increases as the sole employee of two conservative think tanks.
The criticism of Corkins continued today at the board meeting.
Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat whose district includes Lawrence, said the salary for Corkins was "outrageous" and didn't reflect his lack of job experience.
But Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from of Arkansas City, defended Corkins and his salary. "This is a difficult job and we expect good performance," Abrams said.
The board approved Corkins' hiring 6-4.
Conservatives Abrams, Kathy Martin, Connie Morris, Iris Van Meter, John Bacon and Ken Willard voted for Corkins. Wagnon, Sue Gamble, Janet Waugh and Carol Rupe voted against him.
Corkins said he would be a commissioner for the entire board, and said he has been impressed with the dedication of teachers and staff he has visited with over the past week.
But Corkins' proposal to hire a conservative consultant to help him in the transition was not discussed.
When asked about that, Abrams said more information was needed on the proposal before the board could consider it.
Corkins will replace Andy Tompkins, who resigned earlier this year and is now an associate professor at Kansas University.
During the public comment period, several residents criticized the hiring of Corkins.
But most speakers urged the board to maintain the current policy of allowing school districts to provide sex education unless a student's parents opt out of the class. Several conservatives on the board have said they want parents to opt-in, meaning they would have to sign a permission slip to allow their children to attend sex education classes.
Many experts say such a policy will reduce the number of students getting important information on preventing sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.