Education factoring in upcoming Kansas House races

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - In the wake of the 2014 Kansas legislative session, educational interests are developing plans for political activities leading up to the November elections.

All 125 Kansas House seats are on the ballot, as well as the governor’s race and other statewide offices.

Changes made to teacher tenure and funding of public schools have the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest union mobilizing, lobbyist Mark Desetti told the Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1ghf7ek).

“I think what we’re doing is mobilizing to do everything we can to affect the outcome of individual House races as well as statewide races,” Desetti said. “This is a statewide issue.”

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill in April that increased school funding by more than $129 million to satisfy a March 7 Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The funding targeted two funds the court identified as unconstitutional.

Some money will be used to reduce property taxes, while a portion will be used by the state’s 286 districts to boost classroom spending.

Teachers are most angry about a portion of the bill that removed the state law granting tenure to teachers who have been working in districts for at least three years. Brownback and legislative Republicans have said the issue is left to local school boards to negotiate, but gives more flexibility in hiring practices.

“It’s obvious to even the casual observer that one of the top priorities of Republicans is providing the highest quality education for Kansas students,” House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Chris Pumpelly, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat seeking to challenge Brownback in November, said: “Kansans deserve a governor who shares their priorities, is willing to put politics aside and lead.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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