Politics & Government

July 17, 2014

Republican who voted against school bill doesn’t receive KNEA endorsement due to missing questionnaire, union president says

If you want an endorsement from teachers, you better make sure to turn in your homework.

If you want an endorsement from teachers, you better make sure to turn in your homework.

The only Wichita Republican to vote against a controversial school bill that ended a job protection for public school teachers was surprised to find out this week he had not received a campaign endorsement from the Kansas National Education Association.

Rep. Steve Anthimides, R-Wichita, voted against H.B. 2506 in April despite pressure from fellow Republicans, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity. The bill, which passed the House by a single vote, contained millions more in funding to schools, but also included several controversial reforms, such as ending state-mandated hearings before public school teachers can be fired.

KNEA officials had said the union would stand by lawmakers who stood by teachers. But the union’s political action committee recommended Democrat Steven G. Crum, a teacher in Haysville and KNEA member, over Anthimides in House District 98.

Randy Mousley, president of the United Teachers of Wichita, the local chapter of the union, said that this was because Anthimides failed to turn in a candidate questionnaire.

“Mr. Anthimides did come in for an interview. But he did not submit a questionnaire,” Mousley said in a phone interview.

Mousley said he has toured schools with Anthimides, who also happens to be his jeweler, and that he emphasized the need to fill out the questionnaire on multiple occasions.

“I know him fairly well and I made sure he realized that we had to have that questionnaire filled out, and he did not return the questionnaire. So you know it’s out of my hands at that point. My committee can’t recommend somebody that does not submit a questionnaire,” Mousley said.

“There’s a great appreciation to Steve for voting against 2506. But just voting against 2506 doesn’t get you a free pass if you don’t follow the process. The process is what we really tout to our members,” he said.

Some incumbents do get a free pass, however, if they are labeled “friendly incumbents.” But a lawmaker must have served a minimum of two years to qualify. Anthimides, who replaced Phil Hermanson in the 98th House seat this year, has only served one year.

Anthimides was disappointed and surprised to discover he had been passed over. He said he did fill out the questionnaire.

“I understand that it was a technicality,” Anthimides said. “It could have very well been lost in the mail. I did all the questionnaires at one time. It could have been just a mistake. I can’t really put blame on anyone’s part.”

“I understand they have rules they need to be adhered by,” he added.

The irony of the union passing over Anthimides is that he has suffered attacks from the right for his vote on the school bill.

Kansans for Liberty, a Tea Party Group, sent out e-mails in the spring condemning Anthimides, a self-described conservative, for breaking with the conservative faction and voting against the bill.

He was also passed over for an endorsement by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, one of the organizations pushing the bill.

Anthimides has stood by his vote, telling the Eagle in May, “I know in my heart I’ve done the right thing.”

After the April vote, Anthimides got dozens of Facebook messages from Wichita teachers thanking him for his vote.

Tracy Callard, a Wichita teacher who met Anthimides during the weekend teachers packed the Capitol, praised him for his courage.

“I think what really impressed me is, he’s running on family values. Education is a family value,” Callard said in May. “He’s really kind of standing in the tradition of leaders in Kansas who have has always been strong supporters of public education.”

Anthimides said Wednesday that he’s not going to change his beliefs on education policies over the KNEA snub.

“I’m still going to continue to fight for schools and make sure dollars are spent on the classroom and teachers,” he said.

“I’m sure they’ll remember it,” Anthmides said of Wichita teachers and his vote on H.B. 2506. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with teachers and many have pledged their full support to me, so I’m very confident in that sense.”

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