Morris to travel to D.C. weeks before term ends

Taxpayers to pay bill for State Board of Education member

? Kansas State Board of Education member Connie Morris will be in Washington, D.C., at taxpayer expense two weeks before her term expires.

Without comment, the State Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved a request from Morris to have her travel and expenses paid for a visit to D.C. from Dec. 16-23. Her board salary of approximately $87 per day for six of those days also would be paid under the request.

The reason for the D.C. trip, Morris stated on her request form, was to have multiple meetings with immigration and education organizations and other elected officials.

The board also approved Morris’ travel request to attend a conference Oct. 13-14 in Bloomington, Minn., of a group called EdWatch, Education for a FREE nation.

The group will feature speakers on subjects such as:

¢ How international baccalaureate undermines American citizenship;

¢ How mental health screening affects gun ownership rights;

¢ Minority and low-income families as psychiatric guinea pigs.

The total cost of the trips won’t be known until Morris submits her receipts. But an eight-day trip to Washington alone would probably cost several thousand dollars.

Morris, a Republican from St. Francis, was defeated last month in the GOP primary by Sally Cauble, of Liberal. Morris’ term expires Jan. 8.

There have been rumors that Morris will wage a write-in campaign in the November general election, but she has denied that.

In 2005, Morris was criticized for billing taxpayers for six nights in a $339-per-night resort hotel and other expenses when she attended a conference in Miami on magnet schools. She later repaid most of the expenses.

Morris could not be reached for comment. Phone messages and an e-mail were not returned.

Board member Ken Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson, is chairman of a board policy committee that reviewed reimbursement policies after the controversy erupted over Morris’ Miami trip.

When contacted Thursday, Willard said Morris’ travel was “within the bounds of policy as long as they are education-related.”

He said when her bills are handed in, “I’m sure they will be scrutinized.”

Board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said she had “concerns” about Morris’ travel even though she voted to allow it.

“We’ve just been rebuked in the past,” for bringing up the issue, she said.

Board member Sue Gamble, a Republican from Shawnee, said Morris’ request was technically within the board’s travel policy and so there was no other action the board could take but to OK it.

“We don’t have the power to stop her,” Gamble said.

Gamble said when new board members start their terms in January, the travel policy should be reviewed.