The August primary will feature three Republican incumbent members of the Kansas State Board of Education squaring off against opponents. There are no Democratic candidates in any of the districts, so the primary winners will take office in January to begin four-year terms.

We asked each candidate a series of questions on education issues.

Responding were Jean Clifford, the incumbent in District 5 and her opponent, Cathy Hopkins, and challengers Dennis Hershberger in District 7 and Luke Aichele in District 9. Incumbents Ben Jones in District 7 and Jim Porter in District 9 did not respond to our questions.

  1. The 2021 state assessment shows Kansas has more high school students below grade level than are on track for college and career. There is also a downward trend in achievement that pre-dates the pandemic. Are these results acceptable? If not, what do you believe the State Board of Education should do to dramatically improve student achievement?

Clifford:

“Student achievement must be a primary focus and the State Board and local districts should work together to determine root causes and develop programs to reverse this trend. Schools must work diligently and without delay to help students regain lost academic ground to allow them to reach their full potential. Schools and teachers should work hand in hand with parents and families to ensure a comprehensive and consistent program is developed to address learning deficiencies and that students have the support both in school and at home that is necessary for them to be successful. Schools must also carefully utilize the additional funding they have recently received to provide more opportunities for student learning and create after-school and summer programs which help students recover from learning loss.”

Hopkins:

“The obsession with social-emotional learning and data collection has eroded away our foundational ideals of education. I appreciate that you recognize this is a pre-2020 issue. Everyone must make a hard stop and recognize that doing the same thing over and over again is truly insanity. Our kids do not need more money, more task forces, or more committees to study the situation. They need parents and educators working together to actually teach academics. This mess has been in the makings for a very long time and we are now reaping the harvest of it all. Our society has been diluted and diverted away from our foundational framework; truly pursuing life, liberty and happiness. Instead, we have bought the lie that the government holds all the answers. WE THE PEOPLE are the government and we must get back to BEING the government. Parents have unalienable and infringeable rights to raise and educate their children. Abdicating our rights and liberty has cost us all dearly. That must end and we must now take a stand as citizens to return to who we really are as a nation and a state.”

Hershberger:

“No, it is not acceptable since education’s sole purpose is to prepare youth to face the real world of challenges. We need to get back to using class time for pursuing basic academic understanding of math, reading and writing. These basic skills are being lost because of on-line “learning” that does not contribute to critical thinking skills. Employers are telling me some high school graduates are un-hireable because of not having these skills, plus character deficits causing irresponsible behavior. I’m wondering how much of the problem lies in blockade of discipline policy from “discrimination culture” ruling the day. The state board should stop all mandates that tie the hands of local boards and administrations.”

Aichele:

“Ever since Kansas schools starting putting more emphasis on social and emotional learning over academic learning have great scores and achievements gone down consistently. Jim Porter has made it clear that he believes social and emotional learning has a greater importance than academic education for students.”

  1. Statewide opinion polls show 88% of parents believe they should have the primary say in their child’s education. Do you agree with that position?

Clifford:

“I believe parents are the decision makers regarding their children and this includes educational decisions. Schools must both listen to and allow parents access to and an understanding of the curriculum and programs they propose to use in educating students. Many schools already have procedures in place to accomplish this which enables parents and community members to be fully aware of what students are learning and allows them to be true partners in the education of students. I believe students will be more successful if they have a consistent level of direction and support for their learning at school and at home.”

Hopkins:

“ABSOLUTELY AND ALWAYS. We have the 14th Amendment with several court rulings to state exactly that.  It is time to stand up and put an end to the infringement of our rights for our children’s sake.”

Hershberger:

“Absolutely. The children belong to the parents, grandparents or legal guardian. This is the the fabric of society, the nuclear family. If the primary caregiver of children is “the State” (with the exception of severe abuse), then elitist who may have evil intent to reshape culture, can incrementally create a dependent totalitarian society. We know what that looks like from history.”

Aichele:

“I agree parents should have the greatest role in parenting their children and have the final say when raising their children. Public schools should take the role of teaching kids on an academic level in areas that would help them achieve success in life after school. School counselors are trained professionals to deal with the children that aren’t receiving adequate love and support in their home life. This does not constitute teachers to push political points of views on their students.”

  1. Statewide opinion polls show 57% of parents are concerned that schools are exposing their children to objectionable material on gender identity and race issues, and examples of that material have been found in schools across Kansas. If elected, what would you do to ensure that children are not exposed to such material in school?

Clifford:

“The State Board provides broad standards for schools. Local boards of education, not the State Board, approve the specific curriculum used in their districts and determine to what extent, if any, various sensitive topics, including those dealing with gender, identity and race issues, are part of their curriculum.  Schools must be transparent with parents to ensure parents are able to access  and understand the curriculum they propose to use, and schools must address and resolve questions and concerns that may arise and work to fully engage parents as true partners in their child’s education.”

Hopkins:

“It comes down to local control via locally elected school board members, and holding each and everyone of them fully accountable for what is taking place in our schools and to our children. Stopping the flow of One Size Fits All policies and reversing decisions that remove any local control is a must. It is my prayer that parents are upset enough to act decisively by removing board members and electing those who will absolutely uphold their decsion making rights as parents. Superintendents and other administrators have been given too much power and control while the board is rubber stamping these behind the scenes decisions that are effecting our children negatively. The idea that exposing young children to: nonscientific baseless extreme gender fluidity, racial devisiveness and grooming them for pedofiles through extreme ‘sex ed’, while normalizing mental health therapy within our buildings, is best practice, is absurd and must be stopped.”

Hershberger:

“This is maybe the most disturbing trend in education. Indoctrination by immoral content in young immature minds is nothing less than abuse that should be criminal. Children are innocent and need the forming of natural truth about gender, science, love for mankind and a respect of authority. These basic realities are being substituted by “feel good” nonsense aimed at creating victim mentality resulting in irresponsibly. The state board could and should be the “stop gate” to this propaganda.”

Aichele:

“We have a huge issue when over half of the parents in the state of Kansas believe we have a problem with teachers and administration pushing objectable issues such as gender, sexual preference, race issues and political stances. Conservative teachers are also not in favor of being put in a position to emotionally parent children in their classes.”

  1. What measures do you favor to increase security in schools?

Clifford:

“School security can be increased by an in-depth review at the school level to ensure that all entrances and doors are secure at all times and that school safety procedures are in place and actively practiced on a routine basis. Schools should also consider hiring school resource officers and develop a close relationship with local law enforcement. Guidance and assistance can be obtained both from local law enforcement and from the Department of Education as needed by the local Board of Education to maximize the security of their schools. Parents and communities want to know and trust that students are safe from natural and manmade disasters and events in their schools. The safety and security of students and staff in schools and on school property must always be of the highest importance.”

Hopkins:

“This is also a local decision. Again there is not a one size fits all solution. I would entertain supporting the removal of Gun Free Zones. Bragging that there are defenseless children and adults within the walls makes zero sense. Again this has to be a local decision as every community is different. But since I live in and desire to serve District 5, which is very rural, I believe it is quite possible. Teachers and staff have 2nd Amendment rights too. Should the 2nd Amendment rights of teachers and other adults be infringed on school grounds? There have been many stories over our history of how many lives were saved by one person who legally carried a firearm and knew how to use it.”

Hershberger:

“First, warnings should be posted at all entrances that “Any violent intent WILL BE MET with deadly force”. The reality that every school shooting is stopped by an armed rescuer gives us the clear protocol that teachers and administrators could be volunteers to be those 1st responders where they would have multiple sites of secured firearms accessible only by them. The local boards would need to be in full support and parents clear on the objectives. This clearly would fill up the most vulnerable time lives are lost before trained law enforcement arrives. Think how this would have changed the horrific ending(s) ie; Uvalde, Texas.”

Aichele:

“School safety is a big issue right now. Not sure that there is a pinpoint solution at this point but I do believe if faculty were interested in training and even concealed to carry then that would help out a lot of these helpless situation.”

Each of the ten state school board districts covers four state senate districts. Odd-numbered districts are elected in even-numbered years; even-numbered in odd-numbered years.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email