Senate panel votes to support confirmation of three nominees to Board of Regents

Kelly’s selections quizzed by GOP lawmaker on critical race theory

By: - June 30, 2021 3:06 pm
A Republican-led Senate committee voted Wednesday for confirmation of Cynthia Lane, a former superintendent of Kansas City, Kan., public schools, to the Kansas Board of Regents. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

A Republican-led Senate committee voted Wednesday for confirmation of Cynthia Lane, a former superintendent of Kansas City, Kansas, public schools, to the Kansas Board of Regents. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Senate’s confirmation committee waded into the latest front of the political culture war with questions about critical race theory before voting to recommend approval of Gov. Laura Kelly’s three nominees to the state’s bipartisan higher education governance board.

Senate President Ty Masterson secured a 48-hour delay Monday in the committee’s vote on nominees to the Kansas Board of Regents to carve out more time to consider responses to questions about college-level instruction of systematic racism in the United States.

Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, asked Gov. Laura Kelly's three nominees to the Kansas Board of Regents to discuss their view of critical race theory. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, asked Gov. Laura Kelly’s three nominees to the Kansas Board of Regents to discuss their view of critical race theory. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Masterson had asked attorney Wint Winter, a former bank president who represented Lawrence in the Kansas Senate; Cynthia Lane, former superintendent of public schools in Kansas City, Kansas; and Carl Ice, retired president of BNSF Railway, to share their views.

While convening remotely by video at the follow-up meeting Wednesday, the Senate committee unanimously voted to recommend confirmation by the full Senate of the trio put forward by the Democratic governor. The nine-member Board of Regents has jurisdiction over the six state universities and a coordinating role with the public community and technical colleges.

Masterson, an Andover Republican, asked Ice, Lane and Winter to respond to a broad question about potential of educators to indoctrinate young people with heightened emphasis on race at a formidable stage of students’ lives. The concept of critical race theory has become a flash point as Republicans object to it being taught in U.S. schools and prepare to make it an issue in the 2022 election cycle.

“What I think our institutions of higher learning do and should keep doing is teach people how to think,” said Ice, who graduated from Coffeyville Community College and Kansas State University. “Help them with how to think as opposed to what to think.”

Wint Winter, a Lawrence attorney and nominee for the Kansas Board of Regenets, said he opposed teaching critical race theory in classrooms because students should dive into facts of the United States' history of fighting for equal rights for all. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)
Wint Winter, a Lawrence attorney and nominee for the Kansas Board of Regents, said he opposed teaching critical race theory because students should be submerged in facts of the United States’ history of fighting for equal rights. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

Ice retired from BNSF Railway in 2020 after 42 years with the company. He serves on the KSU Foundation’s board of directors.

Masterson asked Lane about politically based theories on race and indicated the topic of critical race theory would be on the GOP’s agenda during the 2022 legislative session.

Lane, who holds a doctorate in education from the University of Kansas, said people had dramatically different life experiences that inevitably influenced their thoughts on complex topics. Race, culture, ancestry, health and wealth of individuals played a role in how a person considered the world, she said.

“I’ll go straight to it, again, to the politics,” Masterson said when it was Winter’s turn to testify before the committee. “You probably, if not the most, are one of the most politically engaged people we’ve ever had stand before us as an appointee.”

Winter earned degrees at KU and was a member of the Senate for a decade. He was an organizer of Republicans for Kansas Values that worked to influence public opinion about the 2012 income tax cuts implemented by then-Gov. Sam Brownback. The tax policy slashed state revenue and created budget problems because spending wasn’t reduced an equivalent amount. The attempt by Brownback to drive state income taxes to zero was largely repealed by the GOP-led House and Senate in 2017.

Winter said he wasn’t a fan of teaching critical race theory in higher education, preferring to concentrate on facts about the nation’s long struggle for equal rights. The history of slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, the Tulsa massacre and the Brown v. Board of Education case are pivotal to understanding America, he said.

“Where we have the opportunity to teach not theories but facts, we should teach facts,” Winter said. “In my opinion, there’s nothing more powerful than teaching these sad facts about the history of our country.”

Former Gov. Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, both candidates for the GOP nomination for governor in 2022, signed a pledge to oppose teaching of critical race theory in Kansas schools.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

MORE FROM AUTHOR