Topeka Moderates who will control the Kansas State Board of Education next year say it's only a question of time before they start undoing what the conservatives have done, chiefly dumping anti-evolution education standards and maybe the education commissioner, as well.
"I imagine everybody is anxious to get the science standards changed back to the mainstream. Whether it's January or February, that's up to the new board," moderate member Bill Wagnon, of Topeka, said Tuesday.
His comments came during a break in the board's first meeting since the Aug. 1 primary that signaled a switch in the 6-4 majority from conservative to moderate.
Wagnon, a Democrat, said he also wants to replace Commissioner Bob Corkins, hired last year by the conservatives although he lacked any experience as a school administrator.
"He's an at-will employee of the board. When he loses six votes, he's unemployed," said Wagnon, the longest-serving member at 10 years.
Corkins discounted the departure talk.
Evolution in Kansas
- 6News video: Some question group's move with elections nearing (07-08-06)
- 49abcnews.com video: Discovery Institute starts ad campaign weeks before elections (07-07-06)
- 6News video: Film explores evolution circus (01-03-06)
- 6News video: Group takes shot at Mirecki through postcards (12-15-05)
- 6News video: Mirecki resigns from KU department post (12-07-05)
- Education board to revisit debate over evolution (02-11-07)
- As old board departs, new evolution stance takes shape (12-14-06)
- Biologist speaks for intelligent design (12-08-06)
- Cultures clash in Democratic primary (07-06-06)
- Education department spokesman leaves job (06-15-06)
- Evolution, religion comments put heat on department spokesman (05-26-06)
- KU profs support evolution skepticism (02-21-06)
- Science teachers pan new standards (02-14-06)
- 'Dodos' circling around I.D. (01-04-06)
- Attorneys in I.D. case spread message (01-04-06)
- Professor blasts KU, sheriff's investigation (12-10-05)
- Kansas ranks last in science (12-08-05)
- Discovery Institute
- Evolution timeline: Events related to the Kansas controversy
- U.S. District Court Ruling in Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District (PDF)
- Center for Science and Culture: A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism
- Parody: Intelligent Design Society of Kansas
- Mirecki press release (.pdf)
- More evolution coverage
- LJWorld.com's Evolution in Kansas coverage
"You can't tell me who's going to be sitting on the board in January. That's speculation and I'm not going there," he said.
As for being ousted, Corkins said, "That's total speculation. I have no concern about that."
The new board will include moderates Sue Gamble of Overland Park, Carol Rupe of Wichita, and Wagnon - who aren't on the ballot this year - along with Democrat Janet Waugh of Kansas City, who is unopposed in the Nov. 7 general election.
The fifth moderate will be Republican Sally Cauble, of Liberal, who defeated current board member Connie Morris in the primary, or challenger Democrat Tim Cruz of Garden City. The sixth will be Republican Jana Shaver, of Independence, or Democrat Charles Runyan, of Pittsburg, replacing retiring conservative Iris Van Meter of Thayer.
A lively contest is expected between conservative Republican Ken Willard, of Hutchinson, and Democrat Jack Wempe of Lyon, former Kansas Board of Regents chairman. If Wempe beats the incumbent, it will give moderates a 7-3 edge.
Those seats will be decided in the Nov. 7 general election.
The outcome of the primary election didn't make chairman Steve Abrams of Arkansas City happy.
"Looks like the liberals will be in charge," he said. "I'd rather they not be in charge, but that's the way it is."
Abrams said he isn't giving up because, "I want to continue pushing what is right."
Board control has bounced back and forth since 1998, resulting in anti-evolution standards for student testing in 1999, evolution-friendly ones in 2001 and back to anti-evolution ones adopted last year and scheduled to take effect in the 2007-08 school year.
Gamble said it was too soon to discuss specifics, but added "all 6-4 votes will be under consideration, including sex ed, the commissioner and the science standards."
"It depends on the makeup of the board, but I expect, based on the campaigns, those are the issues that will be high on everybody's agenda," she added.
In March, the board voted to require the 296 school districts to get permission of parents before teaching their children sex education. Most districts assumed a child would participate unless a parent objected.
"We will revisit a lot of things," Waugh said.
Rupe said she also wants the science standards to be more mainstream because "it's what scientists believe is good science and I think our children should be taught good science."
As for Corkins' future, Rupe said, "The commissioner hasn't made any attempt to work with me, but we'll wait and see in January."