Governor Laura Kelly Demands Commissioner Randy Watson To Resign Immediately

Laura Kelly

Gov. Laura Kelly stated Thursday that education commissioner Randy Watson should “resign his post immediately” after making “inappropriate” statements at a virtual education conference last week, according to a state board of education member.

Watson appears to veer into a story from his childhood in a video from his remarks at the Kansas Virtual Learning Conference, which was provided to the Capital-Journal Thursday afternoon under the Kansas Open Records Act. Watson discusses tornadoes as part of an analogy to describe education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kansas State Board of Education has scheduled a closed-door meeting for Friday morning to discuss the situation.

Laura Kelly Will Not Tolerate Discriminatory Language

Reps. Stephanie Byers, D-Wichita, Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita, and Christina Haswood, D-Lawrence, are three Native American members of the legislature, along with Laura Kelly, who have called on Watson to quit. “It’s not good,” Byers said in an interview Thursday morning after seeing the video of Watson’s statements. The Prairie Band Pottawatomi Nation, the Kansas Kickapoo Tribe, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri all have federal recognition in Kansas.

Watson “exposed himself as someone who is not qualified for a leadership role and, as a result, he should quit immediately,” said Zeke Rupnick, chair of the Prairie Band Pottawatomi Nation. Watson and representatives from the state’s four federally recognized tribes met with Kelly’s office on Wednesday, according to Deena Horst, R-Salina, a member of the state board of education.

Horst said her district covers the state’s tribal reservations, but she hasn’t seen a video of the statements. She described Watson’s statements as “racist… offensive, and unsuitable to be part of a presentation” based on what she knew about them.