The chairman of the state Senate elections committee said Thursday that one of the reasons he wants to move school board and city elections from spring to fall is to dilute the voting power of teachers in low-turnout elections. A spokesman for the state’s largest teachers union said it’s ridiculous to think teachers, who are often in conflict with their school boards, are controlling those elections. Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, said he wants to reduce teachers unions’ influence in local elections in a news release on a bill he’s calling the “Help Kansas Vote Act.” Holmes, chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, introduced the bill in his committee Thursday. “The teachers unions do not want to give up the majority they currently enjoy in low turnout, off-cycle elections,” Holmes said in his release. “But this act is not about protecting incumbency or special interest groups, it is about giving community members representation in local issues.” Holmes did not return a message seeking comment.
Holmes’ assumption that teachers control school board elections is “patently absurd,” said Mark Desetti, director of legislative and political advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association.
If that were the case, “things would be completely different, I can tell you,” Desetti said. “Think of the number of negotiations that go to impasse. If we were electing only our buddies to the boards, why would we go to impasse? It doesn’t make any sense.”