Education-related topics dominated the discussion at a forum for the candidates seeking the District 18 seat in the Kansas House hosted by the Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA earlier this week.
Neither of the Republican candidates running for the seat were on hand for the event. Eric Jenkins, the Shawnee city councilman who was the Republican nominee for the seat in 2016, did not attend. And Cathy Gordon, a midwife and nurse practitioner who is running in the Republican primary, had a patient about to go into labor, and was represented in the discussion by her husband Steve.
Cindy Neighbor, the Democrat who won the seat in the 2016 election, and primary challenger Andrew Hurla were both in attendance.
Here’s where the candidates stood on a constitutional amendment regarding K-12 funding and licensing standards for Kansas teachers.
Constitutional Amendment on School Funding
Moderator Kyle Palmer asked the participants whether they supported the idea of amending the Kansas constitution to bring more clarity to the K-12 funding “suitability” provision.
Andy Hurla: Hurla said he believed that the legislature should be able to address the K-12 funding issues. “I think we can find solutions in legislation that the judiciary is going to support,” he said. He did not directly say whether he supported or opposed a constitutional amendment.
Steve Gordon on behalf of Cathy Gordon: Gordon did not say whether Cathy supported a constitutional amendment, but said the two both thought the court had overstepped its bounds in trying to guide how much is spent on K-12 education. “I believe it is an overreach of the judicial branch from the standpoint of the constitution to be funding the judicial branch,” he said, noting that it was better left to elected officials in the legislature to make funding decisions.
Cindy Neighbor: “The judicial is here to interpret the law as legislatures create it.” “I oppose any kind of constitutional amendment.” has unintended consequences long term.
Standards for Kansas schools
Palmer asked the candidates for their views on whether the state board of education should have the ability to set education standards that govern what individual districts team.
Andy Hurla: Hurla said he had no comment on the topic.
Steve Gordon on behalf of Cathy Gordon: Gordon said that he believed the state board of education should work to be responsive to “on the ground” educators. “Sometimes the entities who govern aren’t totally aware of what the people are doing on the ground,” he said.
Cindy Neighbor: Neighbor said that the state board of education was “really the guiding force with the expertise to set the standards,” and that it was important that Kansas schools had standards that allowed for their progress to be compared to schools in other states. She said those state standards don’t take local control away because it’s up to local boards of education to set curriculum.