Democrat Margie Wakefield plans to officially file for the Second District congressional race on Thursday, with a campaign kickoff rally to follow at noon at the restored Great Overland Station rail depot in north Topeka.
Wakefield is a Lawrence attorney who is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a law degree from Kansas University. She moved to Kansas after undergraduate school to work for former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole in his Topeka constituent services office.
The Second District encompasses Lawrence and most of eastern Kansas outside the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Jenkins plans to seek her fourth term in the U.S. House. She serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and is a vice chair of the House Republican caucus.
Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, reportedly claimed again last week that school funding cuts under Gov. Sam Brownback's administration have led to "thousands" of teacher layoffs, a claim that has already been shown to be greatly exaggerated.
According to a report in the Kansas City Star, Davis reasserted that claim last Wednesday during a fundraising event in Johnson County.
But even after Brownback compared education to defense spending in his first State of the State speech — a comparison Davis agreed with — the governor submitted a budget the next day with what the Democrat called the largest cut in school spending in state history.
The result: thousands of teacher layoffs and a myriad of school fees that parents must pay.
“This is foolishness,” said Davis, adding that it’s “not who we are as a people. It’s time for us to get things right.”
Although the story itself did not put quote marks around the phrase, Star reporter Steve Kraske confirmed in an email that Davis used the word "thousands" in reference to teacher layoffs.
Davis made a similar claim when he gave the Democratic response to Brownback's State of the State address in January, and the Journal-World reported afterward that the claim was greatly exaggerated.
According to official state data, only 811 teachers lost their jobs due to a "reduction in force" between 2009 and 2013.
Because Brownback didn't come into office until January 2011, only 201 of those can actually be attributed to his tenure in office - those that occurred in the 2011-2012, and the 2012-2013 academic years.
Layoffs, of course, are not the only way to reduce the size of a workforce. Many districts used attrition during the Great Recession - not replacing teachers who retired, changed careers or moved out of the area.
Since Brownback became governor, the total number of full time equivalent teachers employed in public schools has actually grown slightly, from 34,074.8 in his first full year in office, to 34,772.8 this year. That is still below the pre-recession number of 34,978.8 during the 2008-2009 school year.
Officials from Davis' campaign did not return phone calls made last week seeking comment. Davis himself said this week that he would have his office share with the Journal-World the information on which the claim was based, but so far we've not received it.