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Legislators, residents talk education

5/11/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

Son of Kathy Kenwright

Two state legislators faced approximately 20 attendees Saturday at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History during the final Eggs and Issues program.

Sue Boldra, R-Hays, 111th district representative, and Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, 110th district, detailed the Legislature's work in its recent session. Education funding and the state's finances were the top questions raised by the audience at the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce's event.

Several people wearing Kansas National Education Association's red shirts attended the meetings. The group's members have been seen at previous events protesting the recent school finance bill.

Tammy Wellbrock, executive director for the Chamber, read the questions submitted by attendees. One question suggested ideological disagreements with supervisors could threaten teachers' employment because the Legislature stripped their due process rights.

The question asked, "In your opinion, should principals, superintendents and school boards let teachers know their political and social views in advance so teachers know how to stay out of trouble, or is it best to keep the teachers guessing?"

Boldra said school members can be vetted before their election, and she hoped school administrators and teachers would not allow their political agendas to influence their work. Couture-Lovelady said he agreed political views should be private among teachers and the schools' administration.

Another query asked why due process was eliminated instead of adjusted to help administrators.

Boldra, who voted against the bill, said contract negotiations can introduce a fix. A time crunch enabled the due process measure to pass, she said.

"All I can say is this was never debated," she said. "This was never considered in the education committee or anywhere, so it was put in at the last minute."

Couture-Lovelady, who voted for the bill, said he trusted the discretion of local school leaders.

"I think most schools, school boards will protect their good teachers by putting it into their contracts, so I don't think there will be a whole lot of change," he said.

Regarding the report state revenue fell approximately $93 million short of projections, Couture-Lovelady said the fiscal cliff changed people's financial planning. Overall, revenue is projected to flatten out as the tax policy unfolds.

Boldra said the state's "draconian" income tax cuts were larger than what Gov. Sam Brownback wanted because legislators determined them. State services cannot be cut if low money reserves are a consistent problem, she said.

Kansas is being "bashed" by the federal government, she said. The Legislature passed a resolution declaring its sovereignty because federal protection of the lesser prairie chicken is disrupting land use and agriculture.

"I'm a government teacher; I'm pretty much a purist," Boldra said. "I look at the Constitution, and it doesn't say anything about those regulatory agencies."

Kathy Wagoner, who was wearing a red KNEA shirt and is bargaining unit co-chairwoman, attended the meeting and said she does not understand why the state maintains control of such issues as guns rights while delegating others.

"It's interesting how the legislature wants to take state control over certain issues, but they want the locals to take control over education," Wagoner said. "And pay for it."

Both representatives affirmed their support for the governor and pledged to vote for him over challenger Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.