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Dear Friend:

The school year is almost over and summer break is drawing near. And, so is the decision as to whether or not our legislators have offered a sound funding policy for Kansas Schools. The Kansas Supreme Court heard argument yesterday (5/10) and we await their decision; some of us worry that our schools won’t open in August. A number of grassroots organizations, like Stand up Blue Valley, Schools for Fair Funding, Game on for Kansas Schools, and Mainstream Coalition, do a great job of explaining the history of the problem and what’s at stake. I urge you to stay informed and stay tuned for the Court’s decision.
Stand up Blue Valley and Mainstream Coalition continue to cultivate a strong following in our community. Each grassroots organization continues to hold forums to educate our citizens on what’s happening in Kansas.  Stand up Blue Valley held a PTO educational session on April 27th where parents and PTO leaders were informed of what’s at stake for our schools. Mainstream Coalition has held several forums, discussing the reckless budget, school funding, and the assault on our courts. They most recently held a “Restore Sanity to Kansas” luncheon (Restore Sanity to Kansas) at the Matt Ross Community Center on May 4th. I’ve attended most of these presentations and can say that the energy and determination in our community is palpable. We will change what’s going on in Kansas, beginning on August 2nd
I’ve been busy meeting up with members of the Leawood Chamber and attending a number of events over the past two months, such as an afterhours event at Douthit Frets Rouse Gentile & Rhode, LLC in Park Place, a Morning Mingle event at Villa Milano on Mission and 137th Street, an afterhours event at Ironhorse Golf Club, and, at the New Member Luncheon, where I was welcomed as a new member of the Chamber. At the new member luncheon, I got to have my photo taken with Mayor Peggy Dunn and Caryn Clements Chamber, board chair-elect, and the Vice President of Private Banking at CrossFirst Bank. 

About the 28th District

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Contact Joy
3310 W. 137th St
Leawood, KS 66224
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Over the past two months I visited three schools in my district: Mission Trails Elementary School, Overland Trail Middle School and Prairie Star Elementary School. Principal Debbie Bond, at Mission Trail Elementary School (home of Max the Bulldog) was gracious and very open to answering my questions about how her school was weathering the budget uncertainty. Likewise, Shelly Nielson and Assistant Principal Melissa Hanson at Overland Trail Middle School (home of the Falcons) were quite open about their concerns. Like their sister school, Overland Trail Elementary School, OTMS has seen an increase in class size and an increase in the diversity of its students.

An ever increasing number of students are experiencing mental health issues. Both homelessness and food insecurity are more common in our Blue Valley schools today. We visited a number of classrooms. One classroom exemplified the reason there is a growing need for great teachers and that was in t he Pre-engineering class for 7th graders where groups of students were designing a drag racer. It was easy to see why these kids were so engaged. Principal Heath Sigg at
Prairie Star Elementary School (home of the Panthers) was also happy to give me a tour of his school and discuss both the challenges and opportunities that face his school. 

These dedicated professionals repeatedly discussed how their classrooms have changed over the years and how funding limitations continued to require that they do more with less each year. The complexity of their classrooms was ever present as each took me on a tour of their respective buildings. There is such a diversity of student needs and abilities across all ages. Most people don’t realize that there are over 65 different languages spoken in the Blue Valley School classrooms. Diverse cultures, beliefs and languages create a rich but complex learning environment that requires us to invest in our K-12 public education system in ways that are both responsible and responsive.

Most people also assume that Blue Valley students are all affluent. But, this isn’t the case. In fact, close to 10% of our students are food-insecure and receive either free or reduced cost nutrition services. Technology demands continue to grow, even if the budget doesn’t. Teaching to the newest technology is the only way to ensure our students will be prepared with the skills for the future and this requires sufficient funding for new technology almost every year. Neither nutrition services nor technology equipment would be considered in the current mantra of “we want more money in the classroom” equation that so many legislators argue for. But, these are critical elements in a sound budget. 

  As a new member of the American Business Women’s Association – Express Network, I’ve attended several luncheons and met some wonderful women who work and own businesses in Overland Park and Leawood. I was also invited to attend a luncheon for the Overland Park Rotary Club and attended the Johnson County legislative breakfast, presented by the Johnson County Public Policy Council.
Mayor Carl Gerlach presented hisState of the Cityaddress on May 9th at the annual luncheon sponsored by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce at the Overland Park Convention Center. He reviewed an expansive list of projects underway or in development that will continue to make Overland Park nationally recognized as one of the best cities to live in. He also explained how Overland Park property taxes are levied (only 12%) and spent, clearly demonstrating that his organization is responsive to our citizens. Gerlach was passionate in his remarks that that all facets of our local economy and education systems require public investment and that our local representative government is best equipped to understand the needs of their citizens.
In my work as a board member for Jackson County CASA, I attended both the Jackson County CASA Light of Hope Patrons Dinner, hosted by Zach and Gina Bickel at the Robertson Law Group in the Crossroads District and the Jackson County CASA Light of Hope Breakfast. I also attended the Promise of Hope luncheon for Johnson and Wyandotte County CASA at Ritz Charles in Overland Park. The burden to our foster care system was evident in the narratives shared at each of these events. According to reports released in January by the Kansas Department of Health and Human Services, the rate of child abuse victims in Kansas has risen over 30% in between 2010 and 2014. In 2016, the Kansas Department for Children and Families reported over 38,500 “child in need of care” (CINC) requests were made to the agency during the prior six months. We can and must do more to understand what systemic issues are at work to produce this kind of outcome the most vulnerable among us.
Three house parties were held on my behalf over the last several weeks. Thank you to Dr. Jay and Ellen Portnoy, Sandi and Ed Fried, and David and Holly Harwood for inviting you friends in to meet me and to learn about the serious problems facing Kansas. Four more house parties are scheduled during the coming weeks. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @joyforkansas for more details. 

I also participated in the SevenDays Walk 2016 with 3,000 others who joined together to commemorate the senseless murder of three people on the Jewish Community Campus in 2014 and stand against hate in our community.

In April, Dr. Josh Anderson, Director of Debate and Forensics at Olathe Northwest High School invited me to serve as a debate judge at the East Kansas Congressional Debate Qualifier - Indian Creek Technology Center. While not in my district, I sure enjoyed watching these bright students engage in well reasoned debate about current policy matters. Ken Thomas, at Blue Valley Northwest, invited me to serve as a practice judge for his students who were preparing to go to the We the People National Invitational Competition in Reston, VA. These amazing students made me hopeful and proud of our public schools in Kansas. 

Last but not least, I have started walking my district, going door-to-door meeting my constituents! So far I am receiving a warm reception and I expect that to continue over the coming months. The Johnson County Election office is urging folks to apply for an advance ballot to vote by mail, projecting high turnouts in both August and November. Aside from avoiding the long lines on election day, there are a number of other advantages to voting by mail: first, you immediately get taken off all call lists and campaign mass mailing lists; second, you receive your ballot 20 days prior to each election and can study the candidates from the comfort of your own home before making your decision; and third, mail ballots are the best paper trail we have to assure us that our votes are being counted!!
An application for an advance ballot can be found here ~ you will need to fill one out for each election (August 2 and November 8) and mail it to the Johnson County Election Office before July 29th to vote in the Primary election. You must remember, however, that the primaries in Kansas are CLOSED and in order to vote you will need to be registered by June 1st and identify which party you choose to affiliate with for that primary. Since there is no Democrat in my race, only registered Republicans will have the opportunity to choose who represents District 28 come January 2017. So, if you want to have a voice in this important decision, I urge you to change your party affiliation before June 1st.
My campaign will continue over the next three months and look forward to hearing from you! Don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions or concerns. Together, we can win in August and turn things around in Kansas! Join me!
Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or comments about these or other legislative issues. I look forward to the opportunity to represent you!

At your service,

Dr. Joy Koesten, Candidate
Kansas House of Representatives
Serving Leawood and Overland Park
Copyright © 2016 Paid for by Joy for Kansas, Bob Regnier, Treasurer, All rights reserved.

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