By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

With education topping the state election issue list, Kansas National Education Association officials are rallying the troops.

KNEA President Mark Farr, Vice President Sherri Schwanz and Marcus Baltzell, KNEA director of communications, were visiting northwest Kansas on Wednesday and today.

The trip is a way to "get out and meet our members as we move toward an election," Farr said.

Since 2008, spending is down $536 per student, and approximately 20,000 students have been added to the classrooms, "so when you cut spending, (and) you increase students, that equates to higher class sizes, closing schools, a shift from the state supporting schools back to the local level which increases property taxes," Farr said.

The organization supports Democratic candidate Paul Davis for governor, a candidate "that supports education and can stop the cuts. We've had an irresponsible tax plan, and now we're paying the price," Farr said.

"If Gov. Brownback is re-elected, he has already promised to double down on the same kinds of tax cuts that got us to this point, and that's what really concerns us," Baltzell said. "We think Paul Davis has a plan to stop the bleeding."

Farr said teacher concerns are the same across the state -- class sizes, class load and lack of funding.

"Our teachers were really awakened April 5 and 6 last year when they were actually in Topeka spending time in the Capitol listening to the debate and unjust criticism some of our House (of Representatives) members put on the floor really caused some of our members to wake up, and say I do need to be politically active," he said about House Bill 2506. "We've had more and more teachers than I've ever seen in my career involved in the political process this year. It boils back to the attacks that teachers have endured under the Brownback administration."

"Teachers have to wear red shirts at events because they won't listen to us any other way," Baltzell said.

Teachers aren't the only ones becoming education advocates. Schwanz said she's seen community members and parents become more vocal.

KNEA has 23,000 members across the state, Farr said.