Kansans trying to decide between two State Board of Education candidates by voting along party lines will encounter some cognitive dissonance. That’s because one candidate — Cindy Neighbor — was a Republican who is now a Democrat. And the other candidate — Steve Roberts — was an Independent who is now a Republican.
The two are vying for a seat on the Kansas State Board of Education representing District 2. That district comprises voters in parts of the Blue Valley, De Soto, Olathe, Shawnee Mission and Turner School Districts.
Both candidates agree on many issues, such as the importance of local control of schools and evolution being part of the science curriculum. However, one key difference is illuminating. During this campaign, Roberts has been promoting alternative certification for educators, while Neighbor has promoted the importance of traditional teacher training.
According to Roberts, knowledge of the subject being taught is sufficient for teachers (especially in high school). Neighbor, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of teacher skills such as familiarity with child psychology and classroom management. Perhaps the candidates’ backgrounds inform their opinions. Neighbor, who is not an educator, became involved with public schools as a room mother when her children were young. She ended up serving for 16 years as a member of the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education and as a representative to the Kansas State Legislature. Roberts, whose education was in engineering, has worked in many different fields ranging from over-the-road trucking to sports announcing to tax examination. He is now a certified math and science teacher and has worked in that field for 20 years, most recently as a tutor rather than in a classroom. Because of his career trajectory, one can see why he would be an advocate of alternative certification. However, his contention that some people are natural educators and do not need to learn teaching skills demonstrates a lack of understanding of the importance of knowing how children learn and how to teach them. No amount of subject knowledge is sufficient if classrooms are chaotic or even unsafe learning environments.
Because Roberts does not understand the importance of basic teaching skills, he does not have the ability to adequately represent his community on the State Board of Education. Although one wishes that Neighbor had some more novel ideas about education rather than being so closely associated with the status quo, her understanding of teaching skills and her experiences in elected office give her the qualifications necessary to serve on the state board.
On November 6, Kansas voters will select new members to fill seats on the State Board of Education in five districts. However, District 2 is the only one in the metropolitan area electing a new member this fall.
While Kansas voters go to the polls to choose their state school board members, Missouri’s governor makes appointments to that state’s Board of Education.
Click HERE for more information on Cindy Neighbor’s campaign.
Click HERE for more information on Steve Roberts’ campaign.
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