As one born and raised in Kansas, I’ve been instilled with the values of our rural way of life. I had many teachers who made a real difference in my life. Indeed, I was considering the teaching profession myself when first entering college (though I changed majors) and more recently I’ve taught at the college level as an adjunct professor. I understand the value of skilled teachers who are passionate about their vocation, and I appreciate the difficulties faced daily by contemporary teachers. I believe every child needs an education that prepares them for college, career and life. This would be impossible without quality teachers.
Therefore, I feel compelled to respond to a newsletter designed to raise campaign funds for the state’s leading teacher’s union, the KNEA. They claim I proposed and advocated for a piece of legislation that would bar family members of teachers from serving on a school board. HB2345 deals with conflicts of interest, and is very far reaching in its effect. For instance, if I have a family member who teaches in another part of Kansas, I could not serve on my local school board.
The KNEA is wrong in claiming I proposed this House Bill (HB2345), and wrong about me advocating for it. KNEA lobbyists understand all the details of the legislative process and they know that senators do not introduce bills into the House of Representatives. This is not an innocent mistake on their part.
HB2345 was referred to an interim committee that I “chaired” because I have developed a reputation among my colleagues as a chairperson who can take difficult subject matter and cut through the emotions to find out what’s real and what’s not. I took the “chair’s prerogative” and decided not to hold a hearing on the bill itself, but rather to study what the current practices are when a potential conflict of interest arises for a school board member.
On November 20th, 2015, the Special Committee on Ethics, Elections, and Local Govt. was completely satisfied that school board members are very sensitive to potential conflicts of interest and take appropriate measures.
Most school boards have a written policy on this subject. The only question I had was whether school boards should collaborate to create a uniform policy made up of best practices already in place locally. This could hardly be portrayed as hostility towards school boards or teachers, but that is the picture the KNEA wants to paint in an effort to fill its campaign coffers.
To say I supported said legislation is a clear falsehood. Rural communities face numerous challenges. We do not need the legislature making it more difficult for non-urban districts to find people to serve on school boards, just as we do not need anybody misleading the public.