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RESOURCES

Kansas Legislature
Johnson County Election Office
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Communities of the
25th District

Fairway
Mission
Mission Hills
Mission Woods
Prairie Village
Roeland Park
Westwood
Westwood Hills

CONTACT MELISSA

In Topeka: 
State Capitol Room 352-A
Topeka, KS 66612
melissa.rooker@house.ks.gov
785-296-7686

At home in Fairway
4124 Brookridge Drive
Fairway, KS 66205
melissa@melissarooker.com
913-961-1555

Dear Friend:

The K-12 Budget Committee voted the school finance bill, House sub HB 2410, out of committee last Monday following three intense weeks of work since returning for the Veto Session.  
 
The bill is not perfect, but Chairman Campbell deserves a great deal of credit for his inclusiveness, commitment to fully vetting all ideas brought to the table and the openness with which the committee has operated. We have had vigorous, at times contentious, debate but never was any point of view shut out without discussion. The chairman repeatedly reminded us that the work we were engaged in would create the record the court requires when they review our formula. He invited us to bring evidence to support our ideas and made sure we had all the time necessary to get things done right. 

For the past 18 months, I worked in partnership with education stakeholders and key leaders in the Senate on the draft of HB 2270 which I introduced in the House K-12 Budget Committee in February. Our bill reflected the framework outlined by the education stakeholders to guide the process of drafting a new formula. From the outside looking in, I know it appears the legislature has procrastinated when it comes to creating a new formula, but the truth is that much work has been done these past two years to build consensus among the diverse group of school districts statewide. Their support has been a crucial part of our work this session – to have districts large and small, urban, rural and suburban, those with wealth and those without, coalesce around a new formula has helped my fellow lawmakers come together.
What’s in the bill?
  • Restores a formula with baseline funding per pupil plus added weightings
  • Increased base aid per pupil
  • Full funding for all-day kindergarten
  • New money for early childhood programming
  • New money for teacher mentoring & professional development programs
  • Increased funding for at-risk students
  • Increased funding for Special Education
  • Better targeting of money in categories identified by the court as needing improvement
  • Comprehensive audit schedule to track progress, gauge effectiveness of funding and evaluate outcomes
  • Consolidation incentive to encourage small districts to reorganize themselves
There have been times I felt frustration at the slow pace of things and I have openly expressed the wish that we had completed our work before the April recess. That being said, I am pleased with the product of our labor this session and look forward to debating the bill on the House floor this week. Thanks to KCUR for hosting me on Statehouse Blend to provide an update.

To prepare for debate on this very complex and important piece of legislation, I spent last week engaged in meetings with my colleagues. The Speaker met with a group of us on Tuesday to discuss how best to ensure productive debate. I recommended we take time to provide our colleagues with a thorough understanding of the components of the bill. We agreed to start with a large meeting of the Republican delegation for a staff presentation. The K-12 Budget committee chairman suggested also having a series of small group meetings to allow individuals time to learn more about the specifics for their own school districts. We agreed it was critical for legislators to have time to communicate with their districts at home for input as well.
 
We began those meetings on Wednesday. The Revisor who drafted the bill described its contents and structure. The Legislative Research analyst who provided support throughout the session walked everyone through the complicated spreadsheet to ensure all understood what each column represented. The lawyer hired by the legislature provided his opinion and guidance. Chairman Campbell then invited fellow committee member Rep. Clay Aurand and myself to join him on the panel and we spent over an hour and a half taking questions about the bill.  The meeting ended only when all questions had been answered. Once the large caucus meeting was complete, the chairman invited our colleagues to sign up for one-on-one meetings with us to ask questions specific to their individual school districts. Although I do not know how Democratic leadership chose to handle educating their members, I can say I have worked to explain the bill to all who have sought information without regard to party affiliation.
 
This process has been a very beneficial way to take input and prepare for debate on the bill. Based on these conversations, we have been able to identify several areas of concern that will require amending during floor action.  To address these concerns I have been working with the Revisor on several amendments to be ready for debate.
 
In a move that surprised nearly everyone, including the Ranking Minority member of the K-12 Budget Committee, the Democratic leadership team and most of the Democratic caucus, the House Minority Leader made a motion to force debate on the bill on Friday. The motion failed on a vote of 39-77. I voted NO. Why? It is critically important to get this right. Amendments necessary to the success of the bill were not finished. The torrential rains Thursday evening caused flooding in the Legislative Research Department. There was no way to get the drafts completed for a debate that day. Our normally unflappable, wonderful, dedicated staffers were visibly distraught at the situation.
In addition, nine colleagues were absent:
  • One father-of-the-bride,
  • One whose son was having surgery,
  • Three seriously ill, and
  • Four others with legitimate conflicts.
They will be back and we will need their votes to get the job done.
 
Unusual? Yes, very. Circumstances we could control? Not in that moment when the motion forcing debate was offered.
 
Sadly, this felt less like a serious attempt to pass good public policy than it did an attempt to skirt the process and garner headlines for someone’s personal political aspirations. I’m simply not willing to play politics with our schools. We have to get this bill right. Our kids deserve better.
 
The only way we get it right is to allow every legislator – no matter their political party – the opportunity to offer amendments that address the needs of their community. Friday’s gimmick would have stifled debate and blocked a majority of legislators the ability to offer such amendments, leaving many schools at a disadvantage.
 
To move good policy through the process requires serious work building relationships across the political spectrum. To pass legislation that is well crafted and does not create unintended consequences takes a great deal of time and thoughtfulness. Since the Block Grant bill passed two years ago, I have been focused on thoughtful research, gathering input from stakeholders, fact-checking and vetting to ensure that a bill of this magnitude works well, meets the constitutional test and will serve our students for years to come. With a few more adjustments, I believe this bill will pass that test. 
If you have questions, comments or need help please contact me at 785-296-7686 or via email at Melissa@MelissaRooker.com. If you are in Topeka, please stop by my office in 352-S. It is my pleasure to serve.

Sincerely,

Rep. Melissa Rooker
Kansas State Representative, District 25
Serving Northeast Johnson County
Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved.
Paid for by Rooker for State Representative, Sheila Davis, Treasurer,