July 22, 2020

ICYMI – KC Star: Davids’ GOP Challengers Back Trump’s Threat To Withhold Funds If Schools Stay Closed

Topeka, KS – On Monday, GOP candidates in KS-03 faced off in a pre-primary forum where issues central to KS-03 voters, including healthcare and education funding, were front and center.

When asked if they support the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act that would remove healthcare coverage from 94,000 Kansans during an unprecedented public health crisis, not a single candidate said “no.” Despite supporting a lawsuit that would gut protections for over 330,000 people in KS-03 with pre-existing conditions, no candidate has offered an alternative plan to improve the healthcare system.

Furthermore, KS-03 GOP candidates wholeheartedly endorsed Donald Trump’s reckless agenda to jeopardize American families, despite health experts, parents, pediatricians, teachers, and school superintendents all opposing Trump’s push to reopen all schools before it can be done safely.

On the latest from GOP KS-03 Candidates, KDP Chair Vicki Hiatt issued the following statement:

“Once again, GOP candidates in KS-03 have proven they are out-of-touch with hardworking Kansans. Whether it be their support of a lawsuit that would rip healthcare coverage away from 94,000 Kansans during the worst public health crisis in decades, or their support of a reckless ultimatum to either cut federal education funding or jeopardize the safety of Kansas families, KS-03 voters cannot trust any of these candidates to advocate for their best interests.”

Read more from the Kansas City Star: 

KC Star: Davids’ GOP challengers back Trump’s threat to withhold funds if schools stay closed (07/21/2020)

The Republican candidates competing to take on Kansas Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids would mostly support President Donald Trump if he followed through on a threat to withhold federal funds from school districts that don’t reopen in the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly two weeks from the August 4 primary, the GOP contenders for the Kansas 3rd Congressional District faced off in a debate co-hosted by the Kansas City Star and FOX 4 KC. It took place via the video conferencing app Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district covers Johnson, Wyandotte and Miami Counties, communities where education funding is often a key issue.

Moderator John Holt asked the candidates if they agreed that school districts that do not open in the fall should miss out on federal aid, an idea floated by Trump in recent weeks.

All of the candidates said schools should reopen as soon as possible, but some were more explicit than others in their support for the possible withholding of federal funds.

REOPENING SCHOOLS

Former Roeland Park Mayor Adrienne Vallejo Foster said local school boards should decide whether to reopen rather than the state or federal governments. But she immediately added that school districts that don’t open should miss out on federal aid, which she noted only makes up a small portion of schools funding in Kansas.

“School boards have extremely large coffers that they’re holding onto,” she said, suggesting that school districts tap into their cash reserves to make up the funding loss. She said students learn best within the school building and emphasized the bulk of school funding comes from either the state or local property tax revenue.

Later in the debate, Vallejo Foster mused that she would like to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education—or at the very least move it to the Midwest and out of “the swamp” of Washington, D.C.

Sara Hart Weir, former president of the National Down Syndrome Society, said families of children with learning disabilities are anxious for them to return to the classroom.

“We also need to consider the mental health of our children and the impact of forcing them to be home alone for extended periods of time— in some cases literally home alone— as their parents are forced to go to work to make ends meet,” she said.

Former Kansas Republican chair Amanda Adkins said she has two high school age children who went through virtual learning during the pandemic.

She said schools need to be reopened, but “we need be thoughtful about the plans that we put in place to make sure that we protect both the health of our teachers and our students.”

She said own her children will be wearing masks when they return to school in August. A Cerner vice president on leave during the campaign, she tied the issue to the overall economic recovery, saying that parents should not have to choose between working and caring for their children.

However, Adkins was vague when pressed by moderator Holt on whether she would support Trump if he withholds federal funding.

“I want to understand the needs of schools in their district and what their plan is. I seek to support schools, parents and teachers and their needs,” she said.

Mike Beehler, a former Burns and McDonnell executive, was clearer on this point.

“I agree with the president. These children need to go back to school immediately. We should withhold any kind of federal funds from them,” said Beehler, who also argued Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly should recalled for closing schools this past spring.

“We need to get back to school right now. Get on with football season. Get on with the marching band. Get on with educating our children to be competitive in the workplace around the world.”

While the other candidates participated in the debate from either their homes or offices, Beehler was outdoors throughout the hour-long debate. He wore a hardhat and orange reflector vest as he stood outside the Johnson County’s Tomahawk Creek Wastewater Treatment facility.

Beehler said he was making a point about the importance of jobs by standing outside a jobsite. But the decision to position himself near a $335 million public works project undercut his message as he railed against government spending throughout the debate.

Former state Rep. Tom Love, who ran for the seat twice before in the early 1990s, used to the question about schools reopening to discuss his longstanding concern that school districts aren’t properly using their federal aid.

“I want the schools to be open. I want the federal funds to be spent correctly. I’d like the money targeted to make sure we wipe out illiteracy in the country,” he said.

ATTACKS ON FAUCI

Earlier in the debate, Love suggested that the pandemic-related shutdowns that began in March were misguided.

“This too will pass. This virus is going to come and it’s going to go. We need to continue to live our lives,” he said. “I think there’s been a lot of fear mongering going on and the government unfortunately shut down thousands of jobs when we should have kept working.”

Beehler went even further an attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who he accused of exaggerating the threat of the virus in the early months of the pandemic.

Fauci warned in March that even with mitigation strategies the U.S. death toll could fall between 100,000 and 200,000. The U.S. death toll is currently more than 140,000, which The Star’s Dave Helling noted to Beehler. And the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. is approaching 4 million.

Davids’ campaign issued a statement Monday evening accusing her opponents playing politics with public health and castigating them for supporting the possible loss of school funding.

“Kansas has just recovered from Sam Brownback’s reckless tax experiment that caused devastating cuts to our public schools, and yet tonight the GOP candidates took a page from Donald Trump’s playbook and doubled down on their support for slashing education funding,” said Davids’ spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw.

CANDIDATES WEIGH IN ON POLICING DEBATE

The debate also delved into the ongoing national discussion about policing after months of protests against police brutality. 

Adkins said she does not support the Black Lives Matter organization, but she added, “I do, however, stand with and support the Black community in this country and specifically in Kansas.”

Adkins said she does this by supporting Black-owned businesses. She also touted her role as founder of the Systems of Care Initiative in Wyandotte County, a group which has provided funding for a program serves at-risk children.

Vallejo Foster said two of her brothers are police officers in Kansas City, Kansas, who she said put their lives of the line every day. “If my opponent Sharice Davids has said a word of support of law enforcement officers, I haven’t heard it,” Vallejo Foster said.

Davids’ mother, Crystal Herriage, is a former Overland Park police officer. 

Davids’ campaign told The Star earlier this month that she “believes that communities need police, but also that law enforcement agencies must undergo serious reforms to increase transparency and ensure those committing crimes are held accountable for their actions.”

Weir discussed her role in 2013 in advocating on behalf of the family of Ethan Saylor a Maryland man with Down syndrome who died from a chokehold performed a sheriff’s deputy who was working security at a movie theater during his off hours.

“We need more funding in this country to help better train our officers,” she said.

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