TOPEKA — The top Republican in the Kansas House wants to abolish the State Board of Education and Kansas Board of Regents and replace them with a new secretary of education appointed by the governor.
The leaders of the two education organizations object, saying the change would politicize the education boards by tying them so directly to the agenda and whims of the sitting governor.
House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, pushed the proposal for a constitutional amendment to make the change on Thursday before the House Education Committee.
"I do not see a great deal of coordination between the Board of Regents and K through 12 right now," O'Neal told the committee.
Gary Sherrer, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, and Ken Willard, a member of the State Board of Education, opposed the idea.
Sherrer said that O'Neal's proposal was "a solution seeking a problem."
The nine-member Board of Regents is appointed to staggered terms by the governor and hires a president. The Education Board is elected from districts and appoints a state education commissioner.
Sherrer said the regents board was created in 1925 to protect higher education from political abuse and direct control of the governor.
"We have in place today a governance and coordination structure that encourages collaboration, reduces duplication, enhances Kansas' quality of life, and boosts the state's economy," he said.
Willard said the Education Board would become more political if subjected "to the changing political environment of the governor's office."
Missy Taylor of Kansas Families for Education said the proposal would disrupt the education system.
"Every time a new governor is elected we could see a change in leadership for our educational system, and this could prove detrimental for our schools and our students," she said.
O'Neal said he wanted to start debate on the proposal, but acknowledged it might be better to consider action on the bill during the next legislative session.