Archive for Sunday, August 14, 2005

Effort under way to get Morris off education board

Conservative’s conduct riles many; defenders stand by controversial views

August 14, 2005

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— She started out as the darling of conservative Republicans.

A born-again Christian, living in far western Kansas, who taught elementary school and overcame personal obstacles to straighten out her life and win a stunning victory to the State Board of Education over a Republican incumbent.

Now, Connie Morris is under fire.

There is a recall effort under way in her sprawling district, which covers 40 percent of the state.

There are mounting questions about her infamous trip to Miami.

And her conduct on the board prompted an internal review about how board members should treat each other.

"She is doing things that don't represent the feelings of this district," state Rep. Jim Morrison, R-Colby, said.

Her divisive comments and willingness to blame others are wearing thin, he and other critics say.

"Connie is an example of what is dividing and splitting our communities," said Terry Woodbury, a consultant and ranch manager who lives in both Leoti and Kansas City, Kan.

Morris - whose district covers most of the western third of the state - has defended her actions and stances on the board, blaming the media and liberal critics for much of the criticism.

In response to e-mailed questions for this story, Morris declined to answer queries about her out-of-state travel expenses, saying, "I am finished haggling over my travel."

She said she planned to run for re-election next year, and that her brand of politics was gaining support.

"I believe Constitutional Conservatives are becoming more plentiful every day, as well as growing acutely aware of the duty to vote," she said.

Conservative agenda

Morris, a Republican from St. Francis in far northwestern Kansas, never sought elected office until 2002 when she ran against and easily defeated incumbent moderate Republican I.B. "Sonny" Rundell.

She has said she was required by God to run after she had written an autobiography about overcoming sexual abuse and depression.

Partially financed by the conservative Kansas Republican Assembly, Morris campaigned as a fiscal conservative and spoke out against illegal immigration, adding that taxpayers shouldn't pay for the education of the children of undocumented workers.

Her comments soon got her into trouble. Morris e-mailed an anti-immigration group that Garden City Mayor Tim Cruz was an "admitted past illegal immigrant."

But that wasn't true, and later Morris apologized.

Then, she told a reporter that she had reported to the FBI a Lawrence filmmaker for possibly stalking and "terroristic" behavior.

The filmmaker, Ranjit Arab, denied he stalked Morris but said that he patiently tried for months to get an interview with Morris for a film he was doing that was critical of her stand on immigration. Arab said he later sought a copy of the FBI complaint and the FBI told him nothing was filed.

Either she lied to the reporter, Arab said, or the FBI thought her claims were baseless.

"I think Morris' actions against me are consistent with her behavior towards others who stand up to her. She's a bully and she takes cheap shots," Arab said.

On her Web site, conniemorris.com, Morris says she opposes illegal immigration because it is devastating to children.

"Let's all continue to use discernment, wisdom and grace as political rumors hurl about, particularly concerning illegal immigration," she says.

Jim Cates, a conservative radio talk show host in Topeka, is a fan of Morris' because of her stand opposing the education of children of illegal aliens.

"In her district, that is the No. 1 issue," Cates said. "She is absolutely, positively on the right side of that issue."

But Morrison, the state legislator from Colby, said political opinion about immigration in western Kansas is mixed.

Many in western Kansas appreciate the migrant workers who come to the area to help bring in crops, he said. "Many are hard-working, generally good, honest people who for the most part are trying to get citizenship," he said.

Frequent flyer

But Morris has caught more heat in recent months because of her criticism of teaching evolution, a newsletter she put out at taxpayer expense that blasted fellow board members by name, and a $3,900 trip, for which she billed taxpayers, that she made to a conference in Miami during which she stayed at a $339-per-night resort hotel.

After a public outcry over the trip, Morris last week reimbursed the state $2,890 for her expenses, but billed the state $1,000 for conference registration and salary during the five-day event.

She refused to apologize and blamed "media bullying."

Kansas Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger said that since Morris has repaid the expenses, that should be the end of the matter.

"These things happen. I don't think I should be judgmental. She has reimbursed the state, I don't know what more you could ask for," Shallenburger said.

But that may not be the end of it. A Harper County citizen activist, Frank Smith, has raised questions about the validity of some of Morris' trip receipts.

Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, said he has decided to review some of her expense receipts in response to Smith's questions.

Morrison said her decision to stay at the expensive hotel undermined her conservative credentials in her district. "That is considered way out of line," he said.

In addition to the Miami trip, Morris had the most out-of-state trips of the 10-member board during fiscal year 2004, which ran from July 1, 2003 until June 30, 2004.

She attended five conferences, including the National Association of State Boards of Education in Washington D.C., the Education Leaders Council in Nashville, Tenn., the National Rural Education Association Conference in Kearney, Neb., the Constitution Coalition Education Policy Conference in St. Louis, Mo., and the National Youth Summit in Arlington, Va.

Recall effort

Meanwhile an effort is under way to recall Morris from office before she faces re-election in 2006.

Brian Shultz of Hutchinson, who describes himself as an independent, is one of several people involved in the effort.

"In an era of sound bites, she's probably done more to undermine Kansas as a welcome home for business and tourism than anyone since Truman Capote," Shultz said.

"Voters believed that she would be a voice for fiscal responsibility. Instead, they learn that she has misused education funds for a junket," he said.

In a recent statement, Morris said she wasn't concerned about the recall. "I serve at the will of the people and will be honored to continue to serve as long as they'd like me to do so."

Applying for a recall petition would require 6,870 signatures of voters who live in the district. If the petition were approved by the state, then a committee would have 90 days to gather 27,384 signatures, or 40 percent of the voters. Some have suggested abandoning the recall and focusing instead on backing an opponent for next year.

Mary Porterfield, a Spanish teacher in the Goodland school district, said she hoped Morris was a one-term member.

"I disagree with the issues she brings up and the way she handles herself. I hope to have someone else represent me in the near future," she said.

Comments

hottruckinmama 12 years, 2 months ago

now that seems to be fairly sensible painless way to raise some money merrill.

John1945 12 years, 2 months ago

I think Joker's comments are a clear demonstration of the kind of religious bigotry that drives the attacks on Morris. Religious bigotry has become a core value of the liberal agenda just as ant-Semitism became a core value of Nazism.

Compare the trivial amounts we're talking about with Morris to the millions that are constantly being ripped off by from various liberal programs and the hypocrisy is brazen and very ugly.

Doug Harvey 12 years, 2 months ago

The KSBOE has credibility? Look at the job it did educating the state's population that elected Morris. I'm from western Kansas and I thought high school was a place to set the social pecking order, not teach anybody anything. I know there are hard-working teachers out there, but the conservative myth that dominates much of the state needs to be challenged by shining light into dark places, not trotting out the old hackneyed dogmas that have been, and continue to be, so destructive and corrupt.

The Bush/Rove machine is a perfect example. Brownback, Tiahrt, Ryun, Roberts, and about half the time, Moore, are excellent examples of people carrying out their corrupt agenda of looting the public treasury and using the army to enrich themselves in Iraq. And it's all done in the name of spreading the gospel of corporativism, which is now called "spreading democracy," one of the more cynical of conflations these yahoos have come up with. Jesus's democreacy, of course.

Except for the credibility of the KSBOE, I agree with merrill -- we need true vision for a better world in the halls of power not dogmatic, cynical greed willing to kill for power and money in the name of "Jesus."

hottruckinmama 12 years, 2 months ago

christian? morris and them like her-bush cheney rove- they're about as christian as the black lab out in my back yard. with them it just thinly veils the surface. they want to imposse those values on others-but they'll play by there own set of rules.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps we ought to encourage doing away with the KSBOE? Let us Lawrence folk decide for ourselves. Then again folks like me would say yes to sex education, yes to several foreign languages,probaly no to creationism,no to NCLB, and encourage legislators to keep their mandates at a minimum.

Would encourage shorter class time periods for the most eager of students in classes where this could be appropriate thereby allowing instructors more time for those who seem to be a bit challenged.

Impose a county 5cent education fee on every soda pop sold in Douglas County to pay for supplies which the schools would distribute. Also help support athletic programs.

Impose a $25 education fee on all moving traffic violations, $100 edu fee on DUI's and $250 edu fee on DUI's involving accidents to aid in supporting art, music and Vo-Tech programs.

It's still time for Connie Morris to move on...

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

If Connie Morris had not been caught she would not have the backbone to ante up. In order for the KSBOE to retain any creditility on this matter her resignation should be sought. She willfully and knowingly broke the rules. If she is smart enough to write a book she is smart enough to know the rules. It's time for her to go.

So called republicans such as Connie Morris seem to get their direction from the Rove/Bush machine which is not representative of Kansans. The (UN) Club for Growth PAC bring outside the state money into our elections which fund Connie Morris and others even some from Lawrence.

Kansas needs Kansas thinkers because Bush D.C. thinkers are not only anti tax for everything they are also anti good jobs as their support for outsourcing displays. We need good jobs for Kansas such as clean light industrial employers which include the high tech and embryo cell research areas.

We need better funded public schools and less new superhighways.

We also need legislators who will support the organic farm industry as it is a hot and growing market.

tell_it_like_it_is 12 years, 2 months ago

What I read into this is that she thinks that since she is a right wing christian she can do as she damn well pleases and get away with it. Kinda like W. One question though what about the things I learned when I was a kid in Sunday school like we are all Gods children (doesn't that include illegal aliens?) do onto others as you would have them do unto you? Don't lie and than tell another lie to cover it up? But I guess you'll have to excuse me since I attended a simple little country church where hate mongering and politics weren't part of the sermon. I have no idea what they preach in other churchs nowadays and frankly don't want to.

lehenry 12 years, 2 months ago

May not agree on everything that Morris stands for...but do agree it's odd that we let illegal aliens pay in state tuition and make kids out of state that are legal pay higher.....if they are illegal they are illegal....why do we pay for a Border Patrol with our tax money if we are going to do this.......disban the Border Patrol if wekl're going to allow this at least that will cut off some of our tax burden....and then we can put a lot more people out of work....

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

hottruckinmama,

I say talk it up and get on our powers that be. They've heard from me but it will take more.

hottruckinmama 12 years, 2 months ago

the only thing that worries me is 1) its simple 2) it makes too much sense. those are 2 things politicians don't seem to like.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

They might say it's an illegal way to fund public schools. JOCO imposed a small sales tax but disguised it as for economic growth...

What's there to lose? A lot of parents could use relief.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

Make it PTO agenda item and bring other PTO's into the discussion one at a time. This is the influence that will drive the issue. Both city and county commissions will need to be persuaded. There are plenty of good talkers in the PTO groups.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

macon 47,

Did you attend public school?private school?

Jamesaust 12 years, 2 months ago

Hmmm...wondering what the Constitution Coalition is and why Connie Morris would need to attend at taxpayer expense. I find their website here http://www.uscoco.com/ Sounds like a conspiracy organization that Tim McVay would have been a proud member. You'll find tips on all kinds of top agenda items like "How to better manage your relationship with the Department of Justice," you know, like the U.S. Attorney, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Or perhaps she eagerly needed to listen to the keynote speaker, Bev Eakman, who is quite the prolific writer and commentator. You can find here own website here: http://www.BeverlyE.com There's quite a lot to chew on there (her campaign against government plans to inplant microchips into babies - the better to track them and their parents with) but maybe a more cursory review might be the Amazon.com page for her latest greatest book, "Clonding of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality through Education." I don't know if MRS.(!) Eakman is a Scientoligist but you could've fooled me. Apparently, a key source of the problems with schooling of today youth (other than godless liberal culture) is psychomanipulation of parents into ignorance (or something like that) by crafty psychologist educators. As one reviewer/fan puts it -- 'Eakman warns against "rigged consensus building" that thwarts opposition or original thinking. It is a powerful tool for manipulating public opinion to gain apparent approval for dubious educational practices.'

Can't Morris be summarized as a person resistant to consenus, who champions a conspiracist view of how immoral experts attempt to foist dangerous education theories upon a hoodwinked populace? Again, how is it that the taxpayers have to foot the bill (any bill) for such crap?

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

Jamesaust, If you are finding this data you can bet many others are as well since she has put herself in the spot light. The best thing Connie Morris could do is display some principle and resign.

Wilbur_Nether 12 years, 2 months ago

Macon47, the degrading manner in which you refer to Hispanics in your posts is offensive. John1945, in a similar vein your attempt to associate those who disagrees with you to Nazis--while both philosophically and historically inaccurate--is also distasteful.

The issues creating questions of Ms. Morris' fitness for office are not about her positions on the education of children of illegal immigrants. There is more than enough room, on both sides, for legitimate political discussion on that topic. Similarly, the issue of evolution is one that can be discussed with reason. Even the scandal over her trip to Miami is overblown. Ms. Morris, in her role as a Board of Education executive, took a business trip to attend a conference. I have seen no evidence that any of her expenses were out-of-line. One thing we have difficulty with in thinking about our Kansas government is that there are certain costs of doing business, and even though you and I may stay at a Motel 6 in Great Bend, the costs of staying at a conference center in Miami are much different. It's simply a cost of doing business. Ms. Morris is well within bounds on all of these issues. Those who accuse her of junketing seem not to be aware of the need for executives--especially in a citizen-government, rather than a professional one--to constantly learn about their areas.

Where she clearly, to me, is out-of-bounds is in the way she treats those who disagree with her. To refer to the mayor of Garden City as an illegal immigrant simply because he is a Hispanic American indicates that she jumps to conclusions without facts. Reporting an Arab American to the FBI--or claiming she did--when he asked for an interview because she was afraid he was a terrorist, again, shows a remarkable lack of judgement. Her epithets and unfounded accusations against those who disagree with her on the Intelligent Design approach and her failure to even read the majority and minority committees reports is mind-boggling.

These issues create serious questions about her fitness for such an important post. These are the issues that should be discussed and debated--civilly, mind you, not with the name-calling and rhetorical nonsense we've seen so far--in examining Ms. Morris' role as an informed policy maker who is focused on the best results for Kansas and Kansans.

John1945 12 years, 2 months ago

To Wilbur_Nether:

I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. Your posting, for example is a serious discussion of the issues and I have absolutely no problem with the manner in which you present them, or your articulately stated views.

If you note, the referent to my comments seems to be missing. That's because Joker's two missives (as well as numerous other submissions) presented no argument, but were instead hatefilled, foul-mouthed expressions of religious bigotry very similar to the kind of ugly anti-Semitism expressed by the Nazis.

As I said above, no arguments were made, just drooling, spittle laced hate-mongering. The JW staff completely removed any record of them and rightfully so. I therefore think the description of those postings is appropriate.

However, let's set the record straight. Connie Morris opposes illegal immigration. She has never associated illegal immigration with any nationality, nor should she. We have people from all over the world trying to get into this country legally, and illegally and to try and associate it with one culture, race, or nationality is simply in and of itself and act of bigotry.

Bigotry is appalling no matter who it's directed at. Whether it's Joker braying epithets at Christians, or those who use racial epithets. By the same token I am opposed to trying to silence people by denouncing them as racists, etc. simply because they do disagree with that person's views, and I join you in calling for a civil discourse of the issues.

Carmenilla 12 years, 2 months ago

John and Macon, I think you're running late for your KKK meeting. Go on now......

And if "beaner" isn't a racial slur than why don't you go find some cojones and ask a REAL MEXICAN what he thinks about that charming little nickname.

Oh wait, you don't and never will have cojones.

You make me sick, the both of you....

John1945 12 years, 2 months ago

Well, well speaking of "trying to silence people by denouncing them as racists", let's take a look at Carmenilla. Thanks for providing a real life example.

Where in my posting did you find anything that would identify me as a racist? Quote that section for me will you there Carmenilla, because I don't think it's there. In fact, I think the rational reader will find just the opposite, a plea to avoid meaningless posts like yours and actually engage in substantive discussions. May I suugest a course in logic or reading for comprehension at some point in your academic career?

Is it really that hard to formulate an argument? Has liberalism boiled down to lurking around chat rooms waiting to hurl insults? Has it become so irrelevant to American life that it no longer has arguments to formulate?

Merrill's post above presents a solid argument for your side that actually has concrete ideas about addressing some of the educational issues we face. Whether you disagree with her or not, there's at least a foundation for discussion, as there is with Wilbur-Nether. Tell_it_like_it_is also raises some good questions about Morris' Christian values, but there's absolutely no reason one would even bother with Carmenilla's hysterical rant, it's just silly.

Carmenilla 12 years, 2 months ago

Let me restate my point...

BLAH!

Oops, did I vomit in disgust? My bad......

John1945 12 years, 2 months ago

No, I think you probably wet yourself. So let me restate my point. There was no evidence in my post for any of the ludicrous accusations made by Carmenilla, and as we see by her followup, she lacks the ability to piece together a cogent argument and so falls back on the "so's your mother" mentality that has made liberalism a laughingstock to rational, independent thinkers.

Even when someone like Morris leaves the door open for criticism the Carmenilla's of the world are so intellectually bankrupt that they still try to knock down the wall with childish ad hominem arguments.

With products like Carmenilla why we're funding government schools with even a dollar of tax money is beyond me.

Carmenilla 12 years, 2 months ago

Oh wah, they are so mean!

I have to go cry my little liberal bleeding heart out!!!

(I can't wait to see what they type next)

(because they have no life and will take any bait)

(and its easier to be a "tough guy" online when you live in yo' mama's basement)

Man, this is fun!

Carmenilla 12 years, 2 months ago

Oh I'm sorry, that wasn't a "rational well-thought out" argument.

Forgive me....

These guys deserve so much more than my bitter little rants.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

Macon 47,

People do show up weekly to pull weeds in the park. Come on we all whine about something which is not uncommon.

Wilbur_Nether 12 years, 2 months ago

Carmenilla, even if "these guys" DON'T "deserve so much more than my bitter little rants," perhaps the rest of us do. And would be willing to thoughtfully engage you in conversation on the issues.

Baille 12 years, 2 months ago

Wilbur Nether? C'mon! Save it for Stephenson. That name belongs to us all.

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