by Murrel Bland
The two opposing candidates for the Kansas State Board of Education, First District, have somewhat similar backgrounds.
The candidates, Janet Waugh, the Democrat four-term incumbent, is a former president of the Turner School Board. Nancy Klemp, the Republican challenger, is the president of the Leavenworth School Board.
Both women appeared at a candidates’ forum Sunday night, Oct. 12, in the parish hall at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1300 N. 18th St. About 35 persons attended. The Kansas Citizens for Science sponsored the event.
Klemp’s husband, Louis Klemp, served as a Leavenworth County Commissioner; Waugh’s husband, the late Art Waugh, was a member of the Turner Recreation Commission. Both women say that their faith is very important to them. Klemp is a Roman Catholic; Waugh is a Protestant.
Both candidates say they favor local control of district school boards.
The State Department of Education was established by a constitutional amendment in 1966 to replace the position of Kansas State Superintendent of Education. The agency is responsible for academic standards, licensure of teachers and administrators and school accreditation.
Waugh consistently has been an advocate for science standards in the controversy between evolution and creationism. The board, in a 6-4 vote in 1999, ruled heavily in favor of creationism in determining science standards. Certain science educators were upset, claiming that the decision made Kansas a laughing stock in the scientific community. Waugh and five of her fellow board members reversed that decision in 2001.
Waugh said she has no problem with creationism being taught in schools — but not in science class. She said that it can be the subject in a comparative religion class, subject to the decision of the local school board.
Klemp said she is proud of her record on the Leavenworth School Board, where she was able to save $1.5 million. She said she is concerned about the teaching of science standards, particularly sex education.
One woman in the audience, quoting from the Kansas Policy Institute, questioned why the cost of education has increased so much. The Institute has been linked to the Koch brothers, a very wealthy family from Wichita that has donated to political candidates and causes.
Organizations that have endorsed Waugh include Kansas Families for Education, the Mainstream Coalition, the Kansas AFL-CIO and the Kansas National Education Association. The Kansans for Life, an anti-abortion organization, has endorsed Klemp.
The First District includes all of Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties and parts of Johnson and Douglas counties. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press.