Stacked deck


Members with set agenda shouldn't dominate group.

Members with set agenda shouldn't dominate group.

Stacked deck

Members of groups asked to address issues should be objective and open-minded.

But a new commission charged with studying K-12 student performance in Kansas looks to be headed in the opposite direction, thanks to the state's radical-right coalition.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, showed us as much with two inappropriate appointments to the new K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission, as he chose lobbyists with organizations that lobby on school funding — Kansas Chamber President Mike O'Neal and Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert.

Lobbyists paid to influence lawmakers shouldn't be involved in policymaking. (The school finance legislation requires the student performance commission's report to be part of identical House and Senate bills.)

The KPI and Kansas Chamber even helped write the school finance bill that included establishing the commission O'Neal and Trabert will now join.

Of nine commission spots, five combined picks still go to Gov. Sam Brownback and his ultraconservative GOP ally, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.

Unfortunately, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them act in the same egregious manner as the House speaker in choosing participants who support the American Legislative Exchange Council-Americans for Prosperity-Kansas Chamber-Koch push toward privatized education.

Other more reasonable appointments saw Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, choose Janis Lee, a former Democratic state senator with a degree in education and 10 years on the Kensington School Board.

House Minority Leader and gubernatorial hopeful Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, planned to appoint former state Sen. Jon Vratil, a Leawood Republican who was legal counsel for the Blue Valley Unified School District.

Unlike O'Neal and Trabert, Lee and Vratil have relevant education-related experience. Yet they won't be heard if the commission ends up stacked in favor of folks only interested in undermining support for public schools as a way to privatize education.

That's not to say charter schools, vouchers and the like don't have a place in such discussions. A wide range of viewpoints should be encouraged in addressing any important issue.

The legitimate fear, however, is in the group forming a one-sided, agenda-driven conclusion — one likely to harm K-12 schools in Kansas — without benefit of careful study.

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