Three Kansas Board of Schooling newcomers make presence felt at inaugural assembly

Three Kansas Board of Schooling newcomers make presence felt at inaugural assembly

TOPEKA — Kansas Board of Schooling member Dennis Hershberger interrupted a presentation on college vitamin applications throughout his first assembly as a board member by inquiring about ideological justification for presidency spending on summer season meals for kids.

“How did that evolve?” mentioned Hershberger, amongst three new Republicans on the board. “What created that want?”

Along with curiosity about what justified the summer season meal program, Hershberger requested what was being accomplished in class cafeterias throughout Kansas to get rid of meals waste. The retired nurse and truck driver mentioned he learn U.S. customers threw out roughly one-third of meals purchases.

Cheryl Johnson, director of the Kansas Division of Schooling’s youngster vitamin and wellness division, mentioned analysis established that inadequately nourished college students didn’t be taught in addition to those that had their dietary wants met. Federal meals applications have been prolonged to summer season as a result of so many youngsters didn’t have entry to wholesome meals selections throughout that a part of the yr, she mentioned.

“We solely present info primarily based on true science — not all of the belongings you learn on the web,” Johnson mentioned. “Dietary well being really does impression your educational efficiency. If the kid is hungry, they can’t hear the instructor over the rumblings of their tummy.”

She mentioned Kansas colleges served 96 million meals within the 2022 fiscal yr and obtained federal reimbursement of $367 million for these actions.

Hershberger, a Hutchinson Republican who defeated incumbent Ben Jones within the Republican major and confronted no Democratic opposition within the November common election, mentioned he was happy Johnson was actively in search of to reduce meals waste in colleges.

State Board of Schooling member Jim McNiece, who had a 39-year profession in private and non-private training as a instructor and principal, mentioned meals service applications contributed to college students’ educational progress, improved conduct, made youngsters really feel extra linked and diminished absenteeism attributable to sickness.

He mentioned school-provided meals for college students have been typically extra nutritious than meals out there within the residence. He mentioned it was a mistake when board members evaluated meals applications solely from a middle-class perspective.

“I can’t overstate how vital this program is,” mentioned McNiece, pointing to the danger of Board of Schooling members neglecting starvation amongst college students. “They make choices about what applications we do and don’t do primarily based on their experiences. Not the experiences of the poor — not experiences of those that are mainly neglected.”

Three Kansas Board of Schooling newcomers make presence felt at inaugural assembly
Dennis Hershberger, a brand new member of the Kansas Board of Schooling, quizzed Division of Schooling youngster vitamin director Cheryl Johnson about ideological justification for a summer season meals applications for kids. (Kansas Reflector display screen seize from State Board of Schooling YouTube channel)


An moral lapse?

Danny Zeck, a brand new state Board of Schooling member from Leavenworth, objected throughout his preliminary assembly to proposed renewal of a contract with the board’s legal professional, Mark Ferguson of Overland Park. He’s served as authorized counsel to the state Board of Schooling since 2009 by way of a sequence of one-year contracts.

Zeck criticized Ferguson for donating to a state Board of Schooling member’s marketing campaign in 2022. Marketing campaign finance stories present Ferguson gave $250 to Jones, who misplaced to Hershberger. In 2022, Ferguson donated $500 to Democratic legal professional common candidate Chris Mann. He has donated 1000’s of {dollars} to Derek Schmidt, a Republican who served as legal professional common and misplaced the November race for governor to Democrat Laura Kelly.

Zeck gained in November by defeating Democrat Jeffrey Howards by a margin of 61% to 38%. In November, all 5 folks elected to the 10-person state board have been Republicans.

“Is it moral for any person that represents 10 board members to donate to somebody’s marketing campaign?” mentioned Zeck, who advised he wish to reopen the search course of for a board legal professional. “We don’t interview different folks to see if we’ve got the perfect one on the market?”

Ferguson mentioned he wasn’t the suitable particular person to reply Zeck’s query on marketing campaign ethics. He advisable Zeck take his concern to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Fee.

“I donated to your opponent,” state Board of Schooling member Ann Mah instructed Zeck. “That doesn’t imply we’re not going to get alongside fabulously.” Mah, of Topeka, donated no less than $200 to Howards’ marketing campaign.

Newly elected Kansas Board of Education member Danny Zeck, left, objected during his first meeting on the board to reappointment of the Board of Education's attorney, Mark Ferguson, to a one-year contract extension due to Ferguson's past political contributions. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Kansas Board of Schooling member Danny Zeck, left, raised an objection to retention of the Board of Schooling’s legal professional Mark Ferguson attributable to Ferguson’s previous political marketing campaign contributions. Zeck, of Leavenworth, was elected in November. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)


‘Drunk’ on federal {dollars}?

The presence of latest members on state Board of Schooling was evident throughout votes on whether or not to approve native college district requests for expenditure of federal COVID-19 aid funding.

The state beforehand accredited 180 proposals tied to $600 million focused at remediating educational points rising through the international pandemic. The foundations additionally enable districts to put money into one-time expenditures that contributed to bettering college operations.

Throughout the newest state Board of Schooling assembly, the members have been requested to vote on plans from 11 districts, together with 9 with excessive poverty enrollments, to be used of $15.5 million in aid funding. A activity pressure vetted every proposal earlier than they have been forwarded to the state Board of Schooling.

Hershberger, the brand new Hutchinson member, mentioned he was involved Kansas college districts might change into hooked on federal funding and undergo monetary withdrawal signs when that money ran out.

“The federal cash goes to go away. What’s the plan for the long run?” he mentioned. “That is the tug and pull when the federal cash is obtainable. It’s simply human nature to change into, I take advantage of the phrase drunk, on having extra cash.”

Mah mentioned the funding was vital to assist college students regain what was misplaced through the pandemic. She urged conservatives on the Board of Schooling to approve the $15.5 million request. If not, the cash could be despatched again to the federal authorities and an arbitrary group of native districts could be neglected.

“I ask you to not make an announcement vote,” Mah mentioned. “I ask you to assist our children.”

Initially, the state Board of Schooling voted down the request. There have been 5 votes in favor of the expenditure, however six have been required. The “sure” votes have been from members Deena Horst of Salina, Melanie Haas of Overland Park, Jim Porter of Fredonia, McNiece and Mah. Zeck voted “no” whereas three members — Hershberger, Cathy Hopkins of Hays and Michelle Dombrosky of Olathe — abstained. Board member Betty Arnold was absent.

The vote not solely blocked allocations to these 11 districts, however put in jeopardy 87 pending proposals from native college districts for $151 million in federal funding tied to COVID-19. All the cash have to be spent by the top of 2023.

After the 5-1-3 vote, the state Board of Schooling took a recess. Hopkins, who defeated incumbent Jean Clifford within the GOP major in August and had no common election opponent, returned from the break to request reconsideration of the COVID-19 funding proposals.

“My abstention was to not say ‘no.’ I must make that clear,” Hopkins mentioned. “I used to be voting my very own conscience. The shock of the end result left me speechless. I’m not okay with the end result.”

Hopkins dropped her abstention, voted for the $15.5 million funding bundle and delivered the required six-vote majority.