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State board shies away from "progressive" label

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The Kansas State Board of Education plans to launch a postcard campaign next year to impress legislators with the successes that are happening in state schools. But in an effort to remain "non-political" in their messaging with the most political of bodies, they agreed today to be careful about using certain words.

The idea of sending out weekly postcards to legislators during the session came from board members Jim McNiece, R-Wichita, and Sally Cauble, R-Liberal, who make up the board's communications committee.

Briefing the full board today on the idea, they suggested branding the postcards with a theme: "Proud, Positive and Progressive."

That immediately raised a red flag with board member Steve Roberts, R-Overland Park, who warned about the political connotations of the word "progressive."

"The word 'progressive' is political," Roberts warned. He also wasn't too thrilled with the word "proud" either, noting - and slightly misquoting - the admonition in Psalms: "Pride goes before the fall." (The actual verse reads, "Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.")

McNiece seemed taken aback, apparently unaware that in political circles, "progressive" is now used as a substitute for another word that has been effectively demonized in recent years, "liberal."

In the context of education, McNiece said, "progressive" should be universally accepted. Students are expected to make progress in their education; they progress from one grade level to the next; and schools are supposed to record progress in improving the achievement level of all students.

But Deena Hort, R-Salina, said she believed it could be counter-productive.

"Conservative talk show hosts downgrade progressive individuals whose ideas are progressive all the time," she said. "Our focus is toward those very individuals."

Even Carolyn Campbell, D-Topeka, said she recognized using the word could cause problems with legislators. "We really don't want to use that," she said.

The board will discuss specific messages to put into the postcards in November. McNiece and Cauble said there would be minimal cost involved. The postcards will be printed in-house at the Department of Education and delivered to legislators through inter-office mail. Electronic images of them will be available on the State Department of Education website.

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