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Three Kansas Board of Education newcomers make presence felt at inaugural meeting – Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — Kansas Board of Education member Dennis Hershberger interrupted a currentation on school vitamin packages all by way of his first meeting as a board member by inquiring about ideological simplyification For presidency spfinishing on summer time meals For youngsters.

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

Collectively with curiosity about what simplyified the summer time meal program, Hershberger requested what was being carried out In school cafeterias throughout Kansas to get rid of meals waste. The retired nurse and truck driver said he study U.S. consumers threw out roughly one-third of meals purchases.

Cheryl Johnson, director of the Kansas Division of Education’s baby vitamin and properlyness division, said evaluation established that inadequately nourished college students didn’t study As properly as to People who had their vitaminal wants met. Federal meals packages have been extfinished to summer time as a Outcome of so many youngsters didn’t have entry to healthful meals decisions all by way of that An factor of the yr, she said.

“We solely current information based mostly on true science — not All of the Belongings you study On The internet,” Johnson said. “Dietary well being actually does influence your educational efficiency. If The kid is hungry, They will’t hear the teveryer over the rumblings of their tummy.”

She said Kansas schools served 96 million meals Inside the 2022 fiscal yr and acquired federal reimbursement of $367 million for these actions.

Hershberger, a Hutchinson Republican who defeated incumbent Ben Jones Inside the Republican primary and confronted no Democratic opposition Inside the November widespstudy election, said he was joyful Johnson was actively lookaying for To attenuate meals waste In schools.

State Board of Education member Jim McNiece, who had a 39-yr profession in Private and non-private education as a teveryer and principal, said meals service packages contrihowevered to college students’ educational progress, improved conduct, made youngsters really feel extra related and lowered abdespatchedeeism Because of sickness.

He said school-currentd meals For school youngsters have been typically extra nutritious than meals out there Inside The house. He said it was a mistake when board members evaluated meals packages solely from a center-class perspective.

“I can’t overstate how important this program is,” said McNiece, pointing to The hazard of Board of Education members neglecting hunger amongst college students. “They make selections about what packages we do and don’t do based mostly on their experiences. Not the experiences of the poor — not experiences Of people who are principally Ignored.”

Dennis Hershberger, A mannequin new member of the Kansas Board of Education, quizzed Division of Education baby vitamin director Cheryl Johnson about ideological simplyification for a summer time meals packages For youngsters. (Kansas Reflector display seize from State Board of Education YouTube channel)


An moral lapse?

Danny Zeck, A mannequin new state Board of Education member from Leavenworth, objected all by way of his preliminary meeting to proposed renewal of a contract with the board’s lawyer, Mark Ferguson of Overland Park. He’s served as authorized counsel to the state Board of Education since 2009 by way of a collection Of 1-yr contracts.

Zeck criticized Ferguson for donating to a state Board of Education member’s advertising campaign in 2022. Campaign finance reviews current Ferguson gave $250 to Jones, who misplaced to Hershberger. In 2022, Ferguson donated $500 to Democratic lawyer widespstudy candidate Chris Mann. He has donated hundreds of dollars to Derek Schmidt, a Republican who served as lawyer widespstudy 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 people elected to The ten-particular person state board have been Republicans.

“Is it moral For somebody that recurrents 10 board members to donate to somebody’s advertising campaign?” said Zeck, who suggested he Need to reopen the search course of for a board lawyer. “We don’t interview completely different people to see if We now have Definitely one of the biggest one On the market?”

Ferguson said he wasn’t The relevant particular person To answer Zeck’s question on advertising campaign ethics. He useful Zeck take his concern to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Fee.

“I donated to your opponent,” state Board of Education member Ann Mah informed Zeck. “That doesn’t imply we’re not going to get alongside fabulously.” Mah, of Topeka, donated A minimal of $200 to Howards’ advertising campaign.

Kansas Board of Education member Danny Zeck, left, raised an objection to retention of the Board of Education’s lawyer Mark Ferguson Because of Ferguson’s previous political advertising campaign contrihoweverions. Zeck, of Leavenworth, was elected in November. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)


‘Drunk’ on federal dollars?

The presence Of latest members on state Board of Education was evident all by way of votes on whether or not to approve native school district requests for expfinishiture of federal COVID-19 aid funding.

The state earlier thanhand accredited 180 proposals tied to $600 million focused at remediating educational factors rising Through The worldwide pandemic. The guidelines additionally permit districts to Spfinish money on one-time expfinishitures that contrihowevered to enhancing school operations.

During The Latest state Board of Education meeting, the members have been requested to vote on plans from 11 districts, together with 9 with extreme poverty enrollments, To be used of $15.5 million in aid funding. A process strain vetted every proposal earlier than they have been forwarded to the state Board of Education.

Hershberger, The mannequin new Hutchinson member, said he was involved Kansas school districts might Discover your self to be Hookayed on federal funding and endure monetary withdrawal signs when that money ran out.

“The federal money Goes to go away. What’s the plan for The Prolonged time period?” he said. “That is the tug and pull when the federal money Is obtainable. It’s simply human nature To Wind up to be, I exploit the phrase drunk, on having Further money.”

Mah said the funding was important To assist college students regain what was misplaced Through the pandemic. She urged conservatives on the Board of Education to approve the $15.5 million request. If not, The money Can be despatched again to the federal authorities and an arbitrary group of native districts Can be Ignored.

“I ask you To not make A press launch vote,” Mah said. “I ask you to assist Our youngsters.”

Initially, the state Board of Education voted dpersonal the request. There have been 5 votes in favor of the expfinishiture, 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 abdespatched.

The vote not solely blocked allocations to these 11 districts, however put in jeopardy 87 pfinishing proposals from native school districts for $151 million in federal funding tied to COVID-19. All The money Need to be spent by The prime of 2023.

After the 5-1-3 vote, the state Board of Education tookay a recess. Hopkins, who defeated incumbent Jean Clifford Inside the GOP primary in August and had no widespstudy election opponent, returned from the break to request reconsideration of the COVID-19 funding proposals.

“My abstention was To not say ‘no.’ I even have to make that clear,” Hopkins said. “I exploitd to be voting My very personal conscience. The shock of The Outcome left me speechless. I’m not okay with The Outcome.”

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