Sen. Forrest Knox made a stop in El Dorado as part of his 50-town listening tour, where he visited with constituents and talked about some current issues.
“It was a good year,” he said.
That includes a record number of new businesses in the state.
“The liberal media reports as if the sky is falling and the world is ending,” he said, “but since (Topeka) came under conservative leadership and everyone has a voice, the process is working much better this year.”
Knox went on to talk about some specific issues.
One of those was the third grade reading requirements, which he voted against.
He said he voted against it because it was a mandate from the state.
“All they are are just more mandates against local schools,” Knox said.
“My job is to represent my district, so there are probably some of my votes the senate leadership didn’t appreciate.”
He also talked about school funding.
“I am hearing from districts not losing students but losing financing in the last five years,” Knox said, adding that he asked them to explain to him why they were losing funding.
Knox went on to talk about when school districts said the state needed to give them more money, which they did, and then the districts said it wasn’t enough.
He said 2005-2006 was when the schools got additional funding.
“A lot of that money was spent on sports equipment and football fields instead of in the classroom,” he said. “A lot of superintendents were boasting about those things and I guess they didn’t realize I wasn’t impressed.”
Since that time funding has remained pretty much flat with a 1 1/2 percent cut one year and a 1 1/2 percent cut the next year.
“Those were the only cuts,” he said. “We need to see why they have less funding. We need to communicate.”
The court ruling that led to the increased funding was filed by middle size districts because they were working to ease funding issues with small districts and growing districts were receiving additional funding because of the increase in students, but the middle size districts did not see an increase.
“I am trying to help deal with those situations,” he said.
Another current lawsuit is on at-risk funding.
“All these weightings are non-uniform and districts not gaining from that are bringing suit,” he said. “These are the sort of things the legislature is dealing with.”
Page 2 of 3 - One other thing he talked about was school breakfasts.
He said students who ride the bus now have to get to school half an hour earlier even if they do not eat the school breakfast.
That makes those students have to be on the bus as early as 6:30 a.m. and get home after 4 p.m.
“So what do parents do?” he asked. “They stop feeding them breakfast. Schools are discouraging parents from doing their jobs. The biggest problem in schools – parents aren’t doing their jobs. If parents aren’t doing their job, their (schools) objective should be how to encourage parents to do their jobs. That would be the best thing.”
Another topic was innovative school districts, something Knox is excited about.
“It’s a pilot program I think may pay great rewards,” he said.
Districts can apply to be innovative districts, which offers ways for them to make better use of their money, such as teachers don’t have to be certified by the state of Kansas to be able to teach. He gave the example of a teacher who had taught for more than 20 years in another state and when she moved to Kansas she was told she would have to go to school for two years to get certified to teach. Another example was that schools can’t bring in a professional welder to teach welding because they may not be a certified teacher.
The program would give schools more freedom in dealing with things in their districts rather than following state mandates. Although they still have testing requirements.
“I vote against mandates,” Knox said. “I think my schools can handle it.
“I think there will be some great positive results (with the innovative schools). It will provide an impetus for change.”
He said it also will allow for more community involvement in schools and volunteers to teach things.
“That’s about the only ray of hope I see for these rural schools,” Knox said.
Another good thing he talked about was broadband Internet in small communities that opens a lot of options.
He said he thought the federal government was starting out on the wrong foot looking at broadband.
Another topic was the Second Amendment.
Knox said there were a lot of good things going with this.
“The Second Amendment seems to cross all lines in this area,” he said.
Knox introduced a bill regarding no gun signs.
Page 3 of 3 - “The logic was why put a sign on a public building where I have to enter, such as the courthouse and that has no security,” he said. “Most public buildings assumed when that (conceal carry) passed they needed to post (no guns allowed) signs. There was no action passed; they just put up signs.”
He said in Wichita they took down the signs for any building that did not have security.
A new law this year allows schools flexibility in allowing someone to carry a weapon in the building.
“Schools are not public access anymore,” he said. “That’s security and that’s pretty effective. If someone shoots their way in you have a problem. You need an armed good guy to stop them.”
He thought the best solution would be to have a locked weapon cabinet in a school with an AR15.
He said when a shooter is confronted with someone with a gun, they often stop shooting others and shoot themselves.
“The more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens the better off we are,” he said.
After July 1, violating a no gun sign will no longer be a misdemeanor, rather it will be the same as a no shirt, no shoes sign.
“People aren’t thinking about who’s carrying, but criminals are,” he said. “Criminals look for a place that doesn’t allow guns.”
Knox went on to talk about drug screening for public assistance, saying it will cost the state a little more because anyone who tests positive is sent to rehab.
On the third positive test, they are out of the public assistance system. Money for kids whose parents lose assistance will go to a trustworthy third party.
“We’re trying to move forward on some of these things,” he said.
“We need to solve these problems and get this on track or make changes.”
Knox said in about two weeks they will be back in session “to do the heavy lifting.”