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Kansas board’s chairwoman undergirded by Baptist roots

TOPEKA, Kan. (BP)–The chairwoman of the Kansas State Board of Education is a conservative Christian and former teacher who grew up in a Southern Baptist home in the Atlanta area.
Linda Holloway of Shawnee, Kan., found herself in the national spotlight Aug. 11 as the Kansas board adopted in a 6-4 vote what one newspaper called “the most anti-evolution science education standards in the nation.”
The 49-year-old Holloway, who is serving as board chairwoman this year, was profiled in a feature story May 8 in The Kansas City Star. The story was largely written in paraphrase form, with few direct quotes from Holloway.
“She is not one to proclaim an agenda, but as an evangelical Christian she sees God’s hand everywhere she looks, and her faith plays a part in everything she does,” The Star stated.
Holloway was elected to the Kansas State Board of Education in 1996 and resigned as a schoolteacher soon thereafter. “Holloway’s reputation for researching and knowing the issues made her an attractive candidate among Christian conservatives, who appreciate her confidence in the rights and wrongs of education issues,” The Star wrote.
She entered politics in 1994 in a bid for the Kansas House of Representatives, losing in the primary to a Republican incumbent. Among her key issues was opposition to the state’s school improvement program, “Quality Performance Accreditation.” Various goals in the program were “fuzzy-wuzzy,” she told The Star, recalling the first draft of the state math test in which students were asked to estimate how many quarters make a dollar. “I want my grandson to know exactly how many quarters make a dollar,” she countered with a laugh.
Last November, Holloway played a key role in getting the Kansas State Board of Education to vote on limiting sex education to teaching only abstinence, with written consent from parents required for the course, The Star recounted. The motion failed in a 5-5 vote along conservative-moderate lines. According to the newspaper, Holloway’s view is that abstinence is the best method to teach about sex but is invalidated when presented as a choice equal to birth control or using condoms.
“Holloway grew up an only child and a Southern Baptist in the suburbs of Atlanta,” The Star noted. “Her father was a deacon. Her mother taught Sunday school for 50 years.”
“We were there every time the door was open,” Holloway told the newspaper. “And in the Baptist church the door is open a lot.”
The Star said Holloway “cites her parents as her greatest influence, spiritually and otherwise. Her parents always prayed for guidance as they made important decisions, a behavior she has adopted.”
Now, however, Holloway is a member of Grace Christian Fellowship Church in Shawnee, Kansas, where her husband, Jerry, is a lay minister. The congregation meets in a converted house and, according to The Star, begins its Sunday worship “with a lengthy praise service with drums, two guitars, a piano, three backup singers and a tambourine-shaking lead singer. … [The] flock sways to the beat unlike churchgoers in staid mainline denominations. Worshipers clap their hands, dance in the aisles and lift their arms toward the vaulted ceiling as they feel the Holy Spirit.”
“Holloway spent most of her career teaching students with severe physical and mental impairments, celebrating their successes and suffering through their disappointments,” The Star reported, adding that most of her years in teaching were in the Kansas City School District.
“Almost weekly Holloway meets her prayer partner, Eloise Griffin, in the food court at Crown Center,” The Star continued. “Griffin, of Kansas City, is a cook at King Middle School in Kansas City. She and Holloway have been meeting for eight years.
“They pray for the school district and their families. They pray for the country,” the newspaper wrote. “They have seen results, although not always in the form they are seeking, Griffin said. When then-Kansas City Superintendent Walter Marks wanted to close Holloway’s school, Griffin and Holloway prayed.
“‘We prayed that if something was there, it would come out,’ Holloway said. Marks later was fired by the Kansas City school board. The school, Delano, remains open,” The Star recounted.