A session in Lawrence last week attempted to shine a much-needed spotlight on the 2008 elections for the Kansas State Board of Education.
After a number of tumultuous years during which Kansas was the target of nationwide ridicule, the 2006 elections again solidified a 6-4 moderate majority on this important board.
But that is not the end of the story.
Twice before, in recent years, Kansas voters have swept aside board majorities that have focused on such issues as the teaching - or actually not teaching - of evolution and basic sex education in Kansas schools only to have those majorities reversed two years late.
After the 2006 elections, the board has again returned to a more moderate, professional approach. A professional educator has been hired as the state education commissioner, and the board is focusing on important issues such as recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers for the state.
In the minds of many Kansans, the board is back on track. But, as has happened before, all of that progress can be lost if Kansas voters don't maintain their interest and attention on state board elections.
Every two years, five seats on the board are up for election. Two of the five seats that will be on the ballot in 2008 currently are held by board members who voted to change the state's standards on the teaching of evolution and sex education. The other three are held by more-moderate members who were on the other side of those and many other issues.
One of those three, Sue Gamble of Shawnee, already has announced that in 2008 she will run, not for re-election to the board but for Nick Jordan's 10th District seat in the Kansas Senate. The other two, Bill Wagnon of Topeka and Carol Rupe of Wichita, both are likely to give up their seats at the end of their current terms. The candidates elected to those seats likely will decide whether moderates will maintain, increase or lose their slim majority on the board.
Douglas County voters are a key in one of these seats. About 72 percent of Douglas County voters live in the board's 4th District, which now is represented by Wagnon. Local leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties should be preparing for Wagnon's likely departure and finding good candidates who would represent mainstream Kansas views on the board.
Voters also must stay engaged in important board issues and elections. History has proven that it's too easy for Kansas voters to be lulled into apathy when it comes to the state Board of Education. Continued philosophical swings on that board will be harmful to Kansas schools and Kansas children. Voters need to make sure the pendulum stops.