Kansas: students need to be better armed with foreign language skills

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Jul 30 14:13:08 UTC 2008

Kansas Board of Education, 2nd District: Candidates' focus is on
student preparation
The Kansas City Star
    The two Republican candidates for the 2nd District of the Kansas
Board of Education agree on a few major issues.

Both Brandon Kenig and Mary Ca Ralstin say Kansas teachers need to
make more money. They each worry about the shortage of teachers and
favor a stronger emphasis on recruitment and retention.

They believe that children need to be prepared to compete in the 21st
century and that the state should not change current science standards
voted in by a moderate board. And both say they're tired of the
national ridicule the board received nearly two years ago over
previous science standards that cast doubt on evolution.

But then come the differences.

Ralstin calls herself a moderate. Kenig says he's more a moderate conservative.

Kenig is most passionate about math and science and says schools need
to encourage students on how they can use those skills in the future.
Recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers in math and science is
a huge concern for Kansas, he said.

"Globally and nationally, this is going to be a major issue as we try
to compete," said Kenig, of Shawnee, who heard from admissions
officials at his college that teachers need to do more to encourage
math and science. "We can't produce enough students."

Ralstin believe students need to be better armed with foreign language
skills. All four of her children are fluent in French, and she would
like to see schools require more foreign language courses and teach
students early on.

"Any kid who can fluently speak a second language can write their
ticket in business or any area really," said Ralstin, who also lives
in Shawnee.

Whoever wins the Republican primary faces Democrat Sue Storm, of
Overland Park, in November for a seat that represents most of northern
Johnson County and a tip of Wyandotte. Five seats on the 10-member
board, which oversees statewide education policy, are up for election.
In only one of the five is an incumbent running.

Kenig and Ralstin say they'll draw on their experiences to be a
valuable board member. That experience is vastly different.

Ralstin has been an active member of PTA groups over the span of 18
years where she's served as president and on site councils. Kenig is a
recent college graduate and a product of the Shawnee Mission School

"I may not have the entire degree of experience my opponents have, but
I do come with my own experience," said Kenig. "And I come with new
ideas from my own experiences as a student… "

Both worry about the future and how Kansas will fare amid a shortage
of teachers.

Kenig said he would favor the state adopting a loan payback program
for teachers. The state would then help pay back loans of those who
stay in Kansas for a certain period of time.

The state has to do something, Ralstin said.

"We're going to have to find ways to get the Legislature to realize
our teachers need to get paid more," Ralstin said. "Some teachers have
two jobs just to pay the bills."


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