To ensure Kansans don't overlook the Kansas State School Board of Education election in 2008, a year of major elections, two Lawrence organizations sponsored a panel discussion, "The Kansas State Board of Education: Why Should You Care?"
For some of the panelists such as Janet Waugh, State Board of Education member, the answer is simple: "because of the decisions we make."
Five seats on the 10-member board are up for election in 2008.
The panelists explained the impact the board has on teacher recruiting and retention, a school's curriculum and the local economy.
Peter Hancock, of Kansas Public Radio, moderated the forum of panelists Thursday at the Lawrence Arts Center. Panelists included Randy Weseman, superintendent of Lawrence public schools; state Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence; Lavern Squier, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce CEO; and State Board of Education members Bill Wagnon andWaugh.
An audience member asked what the district was doing about teacher shortages. Weseman said adequately compensating teachers for their work would help the district recruit and retain teachers.
"We're going to have to pay these people and pay them well," he said.
Weseman said recruiting teachers, especially science teachers, is difficult because of the state's damagedreputation from the national debate regarding creationism and evolution.
"It takes a strong school board to turn that around," he said.
Wagnon said more effort needs to be spent retaining teachers. He said there are thousands of people in the state who are certified to teach, but who are choosing not to teach.
"One of the things we can do that doesn't require a lot of money is work on retaining them," he said. "Retaining them is just as important as paying them."
Waugh said the board is addressing the licensing system and alternative certifications.
MAINstream Coalition, which promotes the separation of church and state, and Kansas Citizens for Science a not-for-profit educational organization and major opponent of the former state board's de-emphasizing the teaching of evolution, co-sponsored the panel discussion.