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Chappell out after state school board primary

Published on -8/8/2012, 7:12 AM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A retired Wichita school administrator defeated a Republican incumbent State Board of Education member in Tuesday's primary election in Kansas, and a Salina-area school board member was ahead in a Democratic contest in another district.

The races in the 8th District in Wichita and the 6th District, covering northeast and north-central Kansas, were the only contested state school board primaries.

In Wichita, Kathy Busch, a retired assistant superintendent and principal, defeated incumbent Republican Walt Chappell, with no Democratic candidate running. Busch had 61 percent of the vote in final, unofficial results.

In the other contest, Carol Viar, a Salina accountant and member of the Southeast of Saline School Board, led Usha Reddi, a Manhattan first-grade teacher, with most precincts reporting. That winner will face Rep. Deena Horst, a Salina Republican, in the November election.

Five of the 10 board seats will be on the ballot in the November election, with members serving four-year terms.

The candidates in the contested primaries acknowledged that they've fielded questions about how public schools should teach evolution, but all four are comfortable with the state's current, evolution-friendly science standards, adopted in 2007. The issue is shadowing races this year because educators expect the board members elected this year to update the standards early next year.

Kansas had five sets of science standards from 1999 to 2007, as conservative Republicans skeptical of evolution gained and then lost board majorities. Each switch away from evolution-friendly standards brought Kansas international attention and, in some cases, ridicule.

Reddi and Viar are seeking to replace retiring board member Kathy Martin, a Clay Center Republican who has been among the conservative evolution skeptics. But the two Democrats have stressed more traditional issues, such as education funding and maintaining high standards.

The Wichita contest was notable because Chappell, seeking his second term, has clashed with other board members in questioning whether public schools have been held accountable enough for how well they educate their students or how efficiently they spend their tax dollars.

Busch raised nearly $22,000 for her campaign, more than twice as much as Chappell, who received about $9,800 in cash contributions. The challenger had financial support from groups representing teachers, administrators and public employees.

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