By Loribeth Reynolds
Dr. Ed Berger, former president of Hutchinson Community College, is running for the seat in the 34th Senate district. He will run against incumbent Sen. Terry Bruce in the Republican primary election.
His slogan is, “Berger for Kansas,” and he said he wants to focus on the future of the state as well as preserving the institutions that make it great.
Berger became concerned about the state’s fiscal condition, and that is what has inspired him to run for office.
“By law, you we have to have a balanced budget,” Berger said.
“You can’t deficit spend, and that’s what you have when the legislature is dipping into other programs to make up for the shortfalls. To me that seems something less that ingenious,” Berger said.
Instead of paying a filing fee to run for office, Berger decided to run by petition.
With 415 signatures needed to run, supporters from the community set out to help Berger’s campaign and gathered about 550 signatures from residents.
Although he has received a couple of corporate contributions, he describes his campaign as “mainly a grassroots campaign.”
“Primarily, for me, it’s people here in Reno County, and Kingman, who are making contributions to the campaign,” Berger said.
With current turmoil in the legislature about school funding, Berger, being a career educator, feels that he would have some insight into the current school funding formula debate.
“Education needs to be adequately funded and it needs commitment from the state,” Berger said.
“Higher education certainly has not had adequate funding to keep up with inflation.”
“Challenges of a university, for example, have to rely on tuition increases to help make up some of the difference. I think funding should be equitable.”
Another benefit to Berger’s experience in education is that he is aware of what programs benefit teachers. Currently in the legislature, due process, which acts as a buffer in the process of firing a teacher, is on the chopping block for community and technical colleges.
“Due process certainly has been something that’s been a part of our system for a long time and I’m not sure what is gained by doing away with it,” Berger said.
“When you look at the opportunity for teachers who have been dismissed to go through a due process procedure, to me that just makes sure the administration has done the correct thing as far as dismissal, so I would be opposed to eliminating due process.”
If elected, Berger said he and his wife will not move to Topeka. He feels it’s important to stay close to his community.
“It’s so important for elected officials to come home and be close to their constituency,” Berger said. “That would be my objective, to come home as often as possible, and make sure I’m in touch with the people that elected me.”