Competing Education PACs Spend More Than $75,000 In Kansas

Oct 31, 2016

Education political action committees spent more than $77,000 on candidates with both moderate, progressive and conservative points of views.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Education political action committees in Kansas are spreading around tens of thousands of dollars to help both conservative and moderate legislative candidates.

There are two big education political action committees in Kansas and they back very different candidates.

The Kansas NEA PAC is funded by contributions solicited by the union and in the last reporting period made about $29,000 in campaign contributions and spent $12,400 on polling.

The contributions went to lawmakers who reliably back KNEA positions on school funding and collective bargaining.

For example, in Johnson County Republican Rep. Barbara Bollier from Mission Hills, who is running for senate this year, received $500 from KNEA. Democratic Rep. Jarrod Ousley from Merriam, who is running for reelection, also got a $500 donation. Last session Ousley was on the House Education Committee.

In addition to that money, there are a couple of dozen local teacher PACs who also donate to candidates.

On the other side is the Quality Schools for all Kansas Kids, a PAC funded exclusively with $36,000 from the conservative Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Almost all of that money went to The Singularis Group, an Overland Park political consulting company that works with conservative candidates. Most of the money was spent on post cards.

According to the report filed yesterday with the state, Quality Schools PAC spent $2,117 on mailers for Rep. Jerry Lunn from Overland Park and $1,776 on behalf of Rep. Charles Macheers from Shawnee. Both lost in the primary.

The PAC also spent $2,402 sending out mailers on behalf of Rep. Ron Highland from Wamego and chair of the House Education Committee. Highland is in a competitive race for reelection with Adrienne Olejnik, who got a $500 donation from the KNEA PAC.

Candidates and PACs must file one more report on Nov. 7, the day before the election, to account for any last minutes contributions or expenditures.

Correction: KCUR incorrectly reported that the KNEA PAC is funded with union dues. It is funded with contributions solicited by the union. The Legislature changed the law in 2012 to prohibit the use of union dues, according to the KNEA.

Sam Zeff is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend and Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR, which is a partner in a statewide collaboration covering elections in Kansas. Follow Sam on Twitter @SamZeff.