NEJC politicians, SMSD teachers well represented at capitol school funding rally

State Board of Education candidate Chris Cindric and Merriam City Councilman Al Frisby were among the featured speakers at a rally for public education on the steps of the capitol Thursday.
State Board of Education candidate Chris Cindric and Merriam City Councilman Al Frisby were among the featured speakers at a rally for public education on the steps of the capitol Thursday.

Northeast Johnson County public education advocates came out in force Thursday to rally for a solution to the funding crisis that threatens to shutter schools if the legislature doesn’t come up with a plan that meets the Supreme Court’s demands by next week.

Among the more than 150 people from across the state who gathered at the steps of the capitol were members of NEJC-based advocacy groups GameOn for Kansas Schools and the MainStream Coalition as well as several local elected officials and candidates, including:

  • Former Shawnee Mission teacher and current Merriam City Councilman Al Frisby, who served as the rally emcee
  • Democratic Board of Education candidate Chris Cindric, who was one of the featured speakers
  • Democratic House of Representatives candidate Jerry Stogsdill
  • Dist. 24 Rep. Jarrod Ousley
  • Prairie Village City Councilwoman and current Shawnee Mission teacher Jori Nelson

There was also a large contingent of Shawnee Mission NEA members. We caught up with a few to get their thoughts on the current state of public education in Kansas. Take a listen:

Jane Mallonee, recently retired after 40 years as an art teacher at Santa Fe Trail Elementary

(Asked how we got the to current situation): “Very easy: The tremendously destructive decision to cut the funding for the tremendously expensive parts of the budget, I must say — schools are the big chunk. But that decision was not made with consequences thought through. We don’t have any mountains here. Do you see any big beaches? No. There isn’t the huge tourism draw that I suppose [Gov. Brownback] was counting on to get businesses to flock to Kansas to be part of our great state. Didn’t work out that way.”

Kim Gilman, Hocker Grove social students teacher, 11 years as a teacher

“I teach at a Title 1 school, and I’m concerned for Title 1 students throughout the state. Students like mine are facing problems that the state is not fixing… Fully funding education would be a hope, but based on what’s already happened today, hope is fading pretty fast. They’ve already adjourned for today without a solution. And the solution seems to just be borrowing. In social studies, we try to teach fiscal responsibility. When we try to teach fiscal responsibility and the state is borrowing and borrowing and borrowing against their future, that’s a problem.”

Jill O’Connor, Hocker Grove math teacher, 9 years as a teacher

“I came into this absolutely teaching, and it’s the best job I could ever have, but it’s definitely affected our schools. Our class sizes are larger now. I don’t have as much extra help within the classroom. I teach a math class that’s geared toward kids that really struggle with math and need one-on-one attention. A class that was supposed to be a remedial class where you only have maybe 15 kids in the class, now they’re bumping it up to 20 or 25. And you can’t have a remedial math class when you have 25 kids in there and they all have special education plans and need more one-on-one time.”

Protestors held signs telling the legislature to "do your job" and respond to the Supreme Court ruling.
Protestors held signs telling the legislature to “do your job” and respond to the Supreme Court ruling.