The “Red Shirts” are coming to crash Gov. Sam Brownback’s party.
Members of the Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, will begin gathering in the Kansas Statehouse about an hour ahead of the governor’s annual State of the State address, which begins at 6:30 p.m.
The union posted on its Facebook page Thursday morning that it had commitments from more than 100 teachers, parents and administrators to attend. “Look for the red shirts!” the post said.
Brownback’s budget, which will be unveiled Friday morning, is also expected to include cuts to education funding to help fill the state’s $648 million budget hole.
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Brownback has long had a tense relationship with public school teachers. Last year Brownback signed into law a bill that eliminated a state mandate for administrative hearings to show cause before a public school teacher can be fired.
This year some conservatives are pushing for a bill that would weaken teachers unions’ collective bargaining power by making it so certain items, such as sick leave and overtime pay, are no required areas of contract negotiations.
Teachers have widely referred to themselves as “Red Shirts,” referring the color of KNEA T-shirts, ever since House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, commented in July that he is uncomfortable with too many “red shirts” in the Capitol. Merrick’s office later claimed his comment was a flubbed reference to the Revolutionary War and British Redcoats.
But the union has taken Merrick’s comment as badge of honor. Red-shirted protesters were a frequent sight when Brownback made stops on the campaign trail last summer and fall.