Conservatives on the State Board of Education made it official Tuesday.
They hired Bob Corkins of Lawrence, a conservative activist with no educational background who lobbied against school funding, to be education commissioner at a salary of $140,000 plus benefits.
Moderates on the board protested the hiring, saying Corkins' experience as the sole employee of two conservative think tanks was not suited to leading a $3 billion public school system of more than 400,000 students.
Board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat whose district includes Lawrence, said Corkins' salary was a "raid on the public treasury."
He compared it with board member Connie Morris billing taxpayers for staying at a Miami Beach hotel for $339 per night for six nights while attending a conference. Morris, a Republican from St. Francis, eventually paid back the state for her expenses after news reports publicized her spending.
Barry Speert of Overland Park was misquoted in Wednesday's edition.
Speert said that he viewed newly hired Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins as a person of conscience and as such would expect that if he was going to pursue cuts in education funding, he would first forego a portion of his own salary.
Members of the public attending the board's meeting Tuesday also criticized Corkins.
Barry Speert, of Overland Park, said if Corkins were a man of conscience "he would've forgone some of his salary" since he lobbied against increased school funding.
But Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, defended Corkins and his pay. "This is a difficult job and we expect good performance," Abrams said.
The board approved Corkins' hiring 6-4.
Conservatives Abrams, Morris, Kathy Martin, Iris Van Meter, John Bacon and Ken Willard voted for Corkins. Wagnon, Sue Gamble, Janet Waugh and Carol Rupe voted against him.
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Corkins said he would be a commissioner for the entire board, and that he has been impressed with the dedication of teachers and staff he has visited with over the past week.
But Corkins' earlier proposal to hire a conservative consultant for up to $15,000 to help him in the transition was not discussed by the board.
When asked about that, Abrams said more information was needed on the proposal before the board could consider it.
Corkins did say he still planned to put together a transitional team but declined to provide details. "I will pull in the most qualified people -- superintendents, staff, and even some people from other states to help make this smooth," he said.
Corkins replaces Andy Tompkins, who had served as commissioner since 1996 and resigned earlier this year to take a job as an associate professor at Kansas University. Tompkins earned about $144,000 a year as commissioner.