As time runs out, she’s off to junkets
As time runs out, she’s off to junkets
Mike Hendricks - Kansas City Star, Fri, Oct. 13, 2006
In August, western Kansas voters booted Connie Morris out of office after only one term on the state Board of Education.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, Morris still has a couple of months left on the payroll.

That’s plenty of time for her to squander your money and mine on wasteful junkets.

Today the St. Francis Republican arrives in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the EdWatch conference, where she’ll hear such wing nuts as Michael Chapman decry “Global Classrooms: The U.N. Curriculum in America’s Schools,” and Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America discuss “How Mental-Health Screening Affects Gun Ownership Rights.”

Then in December she jets off to Washington for eight days, all expenses paid. There, Morris says, she’ll confer with elected officials and special-interest groups.

How she’ll use any of what she learns on the job is a mystery.

She gets back from the trip just one week before her term ends. Barely enough time to turn in an expense account, but you can bet she’ll manage.

In the only statement she has given on this, Morris told The Associated Press: “I’ve been elected by the people to do a job, and I’ll work diligently at that job until the last hour while remaining within my (travel) allowance.

“That,” she said, “is integrity and leadership.”

Well, it’s something. “Chutzpah” is what comes to mind.

The controversy that has erupted over this may not have been exactly what Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had in mind when, during a debate on Wednesday in Kansas City, Kan., she blasted the state school board for being an embarrassment to Kansas.

And here I should mention that the Democrat herself caught grief from Republican Jim Barnett for linking the school board to Crazy Fred Phelps.

Sebelius says Kansas’ image suffers as much from the antics of the state board as it does from its unfortunate association with the state’s least-favorite son.

(That’s true, of course, but not a very politic thing for the governor to say. That’s my job.)

However, the Morris flap does fit the pattern to which the guv was referring.

By that I mean the pattern of arrogance that Morris and her conservative cronies have exhibited since taking control of the board two years ago.

It was ideology first, the interests of school kids later.

First the fractious debate over evolution.

And let’s not forget how the board majority hired a less-than-qualified commissioner of education with a reputation for being an enemy, rather than a friend, of public education.

On and on it has gone, Morris’ tax-funded trips at the end of her term just one more example.

With luck the current policy, which holds that almost any trip is approved as long as it is education-related and is within each member’s travel budget, will change when a new board takes over in January.

And that’s where I disagree with the governor’s position on electing state board members.

Like her Republican predecessor, she thinks Kansas should do away with an elected board and turn its responsibilities over to the executive branch.

True, the board has from time to time been dominated by boobs, hacks and flakes who bring shame to the state.

But whenever that’s happened, Kansas voters have stepped in to restore order — and the state’s reputation.

Morris’ defeat showed that. And her actions since then have proved that the voters had the right instincts.

Have a nice trip, Connie, but next time it’s on your own dime.
To reach Mike Hendricks, call (816) 234-7708 or send e-mail to