Morris goes ahead with travel plans
Morris goes ahead with travel plans
Defeated board member to visit D.C.

By Chris Moon - The Topeka Capital-Journal - Nov 16, 2006
Following a spat about her lame-duck travel plans, Kansas State Board of Education member Connie Morris on Wednesday defended her request for the board to reimburse her for two out-of-state trips in the last three months of her tenure.

She told the board she still had money allotted to her to use for travel when she decided to attend an education conference in October in Minnesota and education-related meetings Dec. 16-23 in Washington, D.C.

Not using the travel money to further her knowledge as a state board member, she said, "would have said I slacked in my duty."

But Morris, of St. Francis, said she had no problem with the board's policy committee re-evaluating its travel rules, which chairman Steve Abrams on Wednesday instructed the committee to do before the board's December meeting. Morris said she would like to vote on any recommended changes before leaving office in January.

Morris was defeated in the August primary election by moderate Republican Sally Cauble, of Liberal.

Click here to check for reprint availability.But in September the board approved Morris' two trips on unanimous votes. Some moderate members later expressed regrets that the travel was allowed under the board's current policies.

The December trip -- in which Morris said she plans to meet with 40 individuals and associations on immigration and education issues -- will occur after her last state board meeting. Democrat Janet Waugh, of Kansas City, Kan., on Wednesday said the experience from the trip was something Morris "cannot utilize whatsoever."

But Morris promised to provide the board a written report of what she learns at the meetings in Washington, D.C.

She said she wished she simply could have left office as soon as she lost her primary re-election bid. But because her term runs into January: "In my mind, I felt like I had a responsibility. I had a duty to fulfill."

"I want to be a person of integrity -- often I miss the mark -- but that's what I strive to be," she said.

Morris was criticized a year ago for a trip to Florida in which the state paid for her to spend six nights in a $399 per night resort hotel to attend a conference on magnet schools. Morris later repaid the expenses but said she wouldn't "back down" this time and still planned to go to Washington, D.C.