Two incumbents ousted in Kansas State Board of Education primaries

(The Sentinel) – Two newcomers won seats on the Kansas State Board of Education in Republican primaries, each defeating an incumbent.

In District 5, Cathy Hopkins ousted Jean Clifford with 55% of the vote, and Dennis Hershberger claimed District 7 with a convincing 59% over Ben Jones.

In the other Republican primary, incumbent Jim Porter kept his 9th District seat, beating challenger Luke Aichele with 61% of the vote.

Two other spots on the board will be decided in the November general election. In District 1, Democrat Jeffrey Howards squares off with Republican Danny Zeck to replace the retiring Janet Waugh; and Republican Michelle Dombrosky defends her 3rd District post against Democrat challenger Sheila Albers.

Half of the 10-member board faces voters every two years, and each serves a term of four years.

The Kansas State Board of Education manages the state’s public K-12 school system and the Department of Education, headed by a commissioner of education. Its stated mission is:

“To prepare Kansas students for lifelong success through rigorous, quality academic instruction, career training and character development according to each student’s gifts and talents.”

Members will be tasked with improving declining student achievement and determining policy on the volatile issues of race and gender.

In a prepared statement, Hopkins says she believes in a “back to the basics” approach in her new job:

“I see this job as a partnership with the families of North Central and Western Kansas and our teachers who want our children to have those opportunities to achieve their biggest dreams. Those opportunities will not happen if Kansas Education does not refocus on the importance of academics. Preparing our children for whatever path they choose after high school, be it technical training or college, will always be my number one focus. It is time to stop asking teachers to do the job of a parent and return their classrooms to an environment where the basic building blocks of learning are taught. Parents, in the eyes of God and the Constitution of this nation, are solely responsible for nurturing, providing, and educating their children. Usurping those rights of Parents with government programs that break down the family unit is an injustice to that child. I will work diligently with the current Board Members as well as the new Members to find common sense solutions that work for all children and solutions that respect the boundaries of Parental Rights.

“I look forward to serving this District, its families, and teachers, working hard to make the changes that will get Kansas Education back on track. We can do better for Kansas Kids, and it will take all of us to make that happen.”

Hershberger credits his victory to voter discontent with schools:

“Parents and grandparents are upset about things that are coming through the classroom and I promised in my campaigning that I would look into curriculum and programs that are not academic but appear to be indoctrination.” He added, “That will be my approach; to evaluate what the board is sending to local districts to protect students and give parents the power to “opt in only” when they question programs that are scheduled for the classroom.

“There are many other things that need attention but my first concern is to address the things that are causing test scores to go down among our students.”

Student achievement has been declining for several years.  Only 21% of Kansas graduates who took the 2021 ACT were considered college-ready in English, Reading, Math, and Science.  And that’s reflected in state assessment scores, which show there are more high school students below grade level than are proficient (on track for college and career).

Members elected this year will take office January 8, 2023.