- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Legislative committee is trying to find out what would happen if spouses or relatives of school employees aren’t allowed to serve on school boards.

The Kansas Legislative Research Department sent a survey to school board members statewide on Friday asking about the issue, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1iYWlAF ).

Researcher Martha Dorsey said the request initially came from the Legislature’s Special Committee on Ethics, Elections and Local Government. She said the committee is looking into House Bill 2345, which would restrict a person from serving on a local school board if his or her spouse, parent or sibling worked for any school district in the state.

The bill was introduced during the past session, but it was quickly tabled after sparking backlash from educators and school board members.

In its current form, the legislation would restrict people who conduct business with school districts from serving on their local school boards. The bill also would bar teachers from serving on any school board in the state; currently, teachers are restricted from serving on the school board in the district where they work but aren’t prevented from serving on another school board.

Mark Desetti, legislative director of the Kansas National Education Association, called the bill “absurd” and said it would make half the school board members in the state ineligible.

Sen. Mitch Holmes, a St. John Republican who chairs the special committee, said in an email Monday night that if there is a perceived or a real problem with conflicts of interest, “we should at least quantify the number of board members affected by HB 2345 in its current form.”

Holmes sent out an email last session about another bill, decrying the influence of the teachers union on local school boards.

Tom Krebs, spokesman for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said concerns about potential conflicts of interest if school board members are married or related to educators are overblown. He said the association advises members to withdraw themselves from decisions if a conflict of interest arises.

“What if you asked the Legislature to impose a similar sort of (restriction) that you can’t serve as a legislator if any of your family - and we’re talking husband, wives, children, in-laws - had any business to do with the state?” Krebs asked.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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