Archive for Friday, October 31, 2008

Wagnon watching race for State BOE slot

October 31, 2008


Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

Bill Wagnon is keeping a close eye on the District 4 State Board of Education race.

After all, the winner will replace Wagnon, a Democrat who is retiring after three terms on the board, serving most recently as its chairman.

The race pits Democrat Carolyn Campbell against Republican Robert Meissner, both of Topeka. Wagnon said it could tip the balance of a moderate board of education to one that reverts to the culture wars of years past.

"As far as I'm concerned, the most important factor that voters need to remember is the chaos on the state board three, four years ago," he said.

Neither candidate lacks experience. Both Meissner and Campbell sat on their local boards of education for 12 years, Campbell in Topeka and Meissner in the Shawnee Heights district.

Both cite funding as the biggest challenge facing public schools, saying lack of money widens the achievement gap and dampens teacher morale. And both say changes need to be made in the No Child Left Behind Act, which pressures teachers to "teach to the test," as Campbell put it.

Meissner called the law "noble legislation," but "I don't think the federal government got it right the first time."

On the issue of evolution, though, Campbell said she unequivocally supports keeping intelligent design and creationism out of science classes. Meissner agrees, though he said in an Oct. 20 debate at Free State High School that other theories could be presented if the scientific community agrees on the merits of alternative theories.

"The litmus test for me is scientific credibility," he said.

Perhaps the widest gap between the two is when it comes to sex education. Campbell supports comprehensive education, while Meissner backs "abstinence-based" programs and believes local school districts should draw the curriculum.

The biggest problem, Wagnon said, is not that the evolution debate will reappear, but that a conservative board will contribute to a new round of infighting, shifting the board's focus from increasing standardized test scores and continuing the "remarkable" progress of Kansas students in recent years.


Frank Smith 9 years, 4 months ago

The thought of electing Robert Meissner to the State Board of Education is truly frightening.The last time the ultra-right theocrats were in power they colluded with Phill Kline to defeat the requirements of the Kansas Open Meetings Act. They allowed one so-called "Christian" member to be flown around the country by her husband to plumbing trade shows for their business, calling them "constituent visits," or "educational conferences." He need the flying time to get his pilot's license.One family vacation to Miami Beach cost the state $3,000 more than it should have, after she presented fake "receipts" for reimbursement. She was ousted in the 2006 primary, but even a month before she left office, her majority colleagues continued to sponsor her luxury junkets around the country, from Minnesota to Washington, D.C.Should the anti-evolutionists regain power, we should expect the completely unqualified Koch Industries stooge, Bob Corkins, to be reinstalled as Commissioner of Education. They will give still more unaccountable grants to equally unqualified people from Georgia to California to provide unknown services. They will try to eliminate sex education and world history from the curriculum. They will once again make Kansas education a laughingstock all over the country, a punch line on Letterman and Leno.Meissner has refused to state his views, apparently because unlike himself, district constituents might believe that the world is more than 4,000 years old.Voting against Meissner is nothing less than a civic duty. You can do it on Monday if you're worried about long lines on Tuesday!

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