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Kan. ed board member criticized for biz promotion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas State Board of Education member is being criticized for passing out brochures for his tutoring business at a meeting.

The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://is.gd/WRY3tf) reports that board member Steve Roberts refers to himself as "Mr. X, Mentor of Mathematics." Last week, the Republican from Overland Park distributed cards to dozens of high school guests from Topeka.

The cards directed the Highland Park High School students to a website where clients can subscribe to a math instructional program for $15 per month. The site, but not the cards, says Kansas residents can access tutorials for free.

Several fellow board members are objecting, including the board's chairwoman, Jana Shaver.

"In my opinion, that is not the appropriate time to distribute that as they were leaving our state board meeting," said Shaver, a Republican from Independence.

Roberts, who was elected last year to the board, has two decades of experience as a private tutor of math, engineering and science principles. He said positioning himself at an exit and handing materials marketing mrxmath.com to the high school students was a spur-of-the-moment calculation.

But Sally Cauble, a Dodge City Republican who serves as vice chairwoman, said members of the board approached Roberts after last week's session to express reservations about his circulation of self-promotional advertising.

"A couple of us felt like it was unethical," Cauble said. "My concern was that he was representing the state school board."

Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said there was no ethics law in Kansas forbidding Roberts from distributing information about his company while performing duties as an elected official. A conflict of interest could exist if Roberts attempted to convince the state board to adopt his math tutoring or Internet instruction programs for use in public schools, Williams said.