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Rallying for change -- again

5/19/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

TOPEKA -- Area teachers, past and present, and their families marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision Saturday and participated in a rally calling for change in the education system.

Victoria art teacher Scott Lee and his family joined hundreds of education advocates from across the state who marched from the national historic site to the Capitol grounds.

Lee, wife Kathy and daughters Isabella, a Hays High School sophomore, and Lizzy, an eighth-grader at Hays Middle School, rode a bus from Hays provided by the KNEA.

"We're not just telling them (about the issues), we're showing them," Kathy Lee said of her daughters making the trip.

"We want to teach them if you want things to change and be different, you have to be proactive," Scott Lee said. "You can't just be the victim."

Paul Davis, House Minority Leader and Gov. Sam Brownback's Democratic challenger, joined the march and spoke at the rally.

His speech was interrupted several times by applause from teachers, many of whom wore Davis-Docking campaign buttons.

"We, as Kansans, believe that we have a moral obligation to give our children the very best education possible," Davis said.

That commitment to education is a part of the state's history, he continued.

"Right now we have a governor, and we have far too many state legislators who see things very differently," Davis said.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten's message to the group came across loudly.

"Whether it was 60 years ago in the fight against institutionalized racism, or whether it is the fight today to ensure that every child gets a quality public education, teachers are in the midst of that fight ... and we will not be silenced," Weingarten said.

"What I've learned again and again is that teachers show up," said Heather Ousley, a parent and member of the advocacy group Game On for Kansas Schools. "If you need something or someone, teachers have got your back."

The way to change elected leadership is to campaign and vote, said Karen Godfrey, KNEA president.

"Our schools need more resources more than our wealthy need more tax breaks. ... It is time to say enough is enough," she said.

Dean Stramel, Hays, a retired science teacher, was asked to pose for photos as he paraded through the crowd with a sign proclaiming "Brown moved Kansas forward, now we have Brownback."

Stramel said in other cultures, teachers are respected.

"We're being treated very poorly," he said.