Kansas gubernatorial candidate Rick Kloos, Independent, stopped by the Tribune offices Wednesday on his way to the Great Bend Farm and Ranch Show. He was traveling with his wife, Pennie, and his son and running mate Nathaniel as part of a 52-day campaign tour of western Kansas.
As an Independent, Kloos is the only candidate with a definite spot on the November ballot so far. Kloos hopes to be a uniting force for Kansas.
Kloos was by far most passionate about the future of education in Kansas. Rather than looking at education, which accounts for half the state’s budget, as a liability, he wants to turn that thinking around. He wants education to be the state’s biggest asset, he said.
During his exploratory tour in 2017, he talked with many teachers who told him they didn’t feel valued, supported, and their salaries plateaued too soon. He recognizes this makes Kansas uncompetitive with the rest of the country, and that’s causing Kansas to lose it’s best teachers to other states.
“I want to have one of the best education systems in the nation and a culture of creativity and innovation,” he said.
“And, I want to create a landscape where our businesses, young people and graduates choose to stay.”
But, rather than reinventing the wheel, he advocates for more support of the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) Kansans Can education redesign efforts.
This program, he said, offers students the potential to leave high school trained and ready to enter the workforce day one, or to enter post-secondary school with college credits already earned.
Nathaniel spoke to the development of partnerships between business and the schools as a means of making employment available to young people in the communities they grow up in, and for those who choose to come back home after college or vocational training.
Rick and Pennie were raised in north central Kansas. Rick grew up in Miltonvale, and Pennie in Concordia. An interesting bit of trivia -- her family includes the Boyer family of Belleville, founders of the Paul Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings. The couple met and graduated from Trinity College in North Dakota. Since 1998, they have lived in the Topeka area, where Nathaniel grew up.
Rick’s professional experience includes being a substance abuse counselor, a police and corrections facility chaplain, a real estate investor and founder of a non-profit thrift store in Topeka since 2009.