Republicans sweep Kansas Board of Education seats, say they will give parents more oversight

By: - November 9, 2022 2:02 pm
A voter walking toward door of polling place

A voter arrives Tuesday morning at the Sunrise Optimist Club north of Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — New Kansas State Board of Education members say they will prioritize parental oversight in schools across Kansas.

Ahead of the election, the 10-seat board had six Republican and four Democratic members. With Republicans taking all five seats on the ballot in the November election, the BOE will shift further to the right. Republicans will have seven seats on the BOE with Democrats filling the other three seats.

Each member serves a four-year term. Even-numbered districts have elections during presidential election years, and odd-numbered districts are up for a vote during midterm election years. The board sets curriculum standards and graduation requirements for schools.

The BOE has been the center of fierce debates over critical race theory, gender and sexuality curriculum, and other hot-button education topics around national trends of book bans and discussion of appropriate classroom material.

Three out of the five districts on the general election ballot elected Republicans who ran unopposed. District 1 and District 3 were the only competitive BOE races in 2022.

District 1 covers areas in Atchinson, Douglas, Leavenworth and Shawnee, among other school districts. In District 1, Republican Danny Zeck took 62% of the vote, beating Democrat Jeffrey Howards for the seat. 

Zeck, like his fellow Republicans, platformed on parental authority, saying schools needed to be more transparent and that parents should be allowed to fully direct their children’s curricula.

“It is time to stop the Washington Liberal Standards from dictating values that do not fit Kansas Education. We must put Parents In Charge of their child’s Education,” Zeck’s campaign page read.

District 3 covers parts of Johnson County, including schools in Overland Park, Olathe and Gardner. In District 3, incumbent Republican Michelle Dombrosky faced Sheila Albers, a Democrat from Overland Park. Albers campaigned on addressing the teachers shortage and improving education, while Dombrosky focused on parental authority.

Dombrosky was returned to office in a tight race, getting 60,315 votes to Albers’ 54,247 votes. Dombrosky’s campaign page states her belief in parents’ “unalienable, uninfringeable authority to direct the education of their child.”

Out of the unopposed districts, Republican Cathy Hopkins took the District 5 seat. Hopkins has said before that she supports parental rights and wants to keep politics out of the classroom.

Republican Dennis Hershberger, elected to District 7 unopposed, also is a proponent of parental authority and campaigned with a “faith, family and freedom” slogan. Incumbent Republican Jim Porter was reelected in District 9.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.