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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:

If you have followed the local news or social media in the last week, you have likely heard about a substantial drafting error in the school finance plan passed at the end of the legislative session. Substantial to the tune of $80 million for 88 districts statewide, including Shawnee Mission. Unfortunately, SMSD also stands to lose an extra $1.8 million due to the repeal of a statute embedded in the bill (KSA 72-5144).
 
How does an $80 million mistake happen? 
As the clock ran out on the regular session and Senate leadership obstructed meaningful progress, the House Speaker crafted a compromise plan to get the process moving. His draft was based on HB 2445, but included the following changes:
  • Adds a preamble (think Whereas and Wherefore statements) that defines the educational interests of the state and identifies total spending on wrap-around services that affect K-12 students, that is spent by state agencies other than the Department of Education (Department of Children and Families is a primary example). 
  • Adopted the Senate position to pay for ACT/WorkKeys testing for all Kansas students at a cost of $2.8 million
  • Adopted the Senate position on teacher mentoring increases of $500,000 
  • Adopted the Senate position on school districts’ ability to issue bonds – the House plan would have removed the cap while the Senate softened the restrictions to allow more flexibility
  • 15% mandatory minimum levy for Local Option Budgets (this is the section containing the problems)
Meetings were held on Friday, April 6, with legislative leaders to break the logjam because the Senate was obstructing progress and both legislative and court deadlines loomed. To his credit, Speaker Ron Ryckman talked to a broad cast of characters to see where a compromise could be found. This series of conversations was open door; literally, the door was open and a variety of people were in and out. 
 
To be clear, this was not a bill but an amendment. Legislators work directly with the Revisor’s staff to craft amendments. Bringing an amendment to the floor is routine business. We have seen a wide variety of major policies brought to the floor in this manner this year. As an example, we debated medical marijuana on the floor - a 116 page bill turned floor amendment that had not been through the committee process.  
 
In the case of school finance, the two bills which were merged to create the amendment both had hearings and were passed by their respective chambers. Because 4 of the 5 changes inserted were directly from the Senate-passed bill (SB 423), it is still unknown to me who added the LOB component, the section causing the problem. The terms being discussed in the meeting I attended did not include the surprises found later. 
  • At no time was there discussion that the "effective base" was part of that plan.
  • At no time was there discussion that the BSAPP funding numbers would be inflated by that 15%. 
  • At no time was there discussion that the LOB cap would be lowered to 30.5%. 
  • At no time was there discussion that the statute mentioned above (KSA 72-5144) would be repealed in this bill - this is the statute that causes 88 districts including SMSD to lose funds in addition to the $80 million drafting error. 
House debate began on the bill at approximately 10:30 am. It was 30 minutes before I was able to acquire a hard copy of the amendment and about an hour (11:22 am) when all Republican and Democrat members received a 2-page bill summary via email. Because these were existing bills that were being “married,” language should not have been an issue.
 
No one knew about the drafting error embedded in the LOB provision until the Kansas Department of Education got the bill after it passed. I want to be very clear, even the people who support this provision were not aware of the drafting error. KSDE is tasked with producing district-by-district runs to show how implementation will affect every district. During this process, KSDE discovered that although the amendment appropriates the correct amount of total funding, the language missing from the LOB provision prevents $80 million from being distributed to schools. Additionally, on Monday it was discovered that the repeal of K.S.A. 72-5144 will reduce funding from the Local Option Budget of 88 districts across the state. 
 
Given the midnight deadline, the Senate filibuster and the intractability of the Senate leaders, getting even this flawed bill through was a step in the right direction compared to getting nothing done. It was not about "going home," it was about meeting the deadline set by the Supreme Court. We each have just one vote - it takes a total of 63 members of the House and 21 in the Senate to pass legislation. We can want what we want, but there always comes a time to work on compromise. Many clichés exist - comparing the legislative process to sausage making, not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, politics is the art of the possible. In this case, all are applicable.
 
I appreciate the Governor’s support for a trailer bill to correct the problems in this legislation. I am also proud that we have made the amount of progress made to date. Moving a majority towards the level of funding we managed to put in place – $535 million – and correcting the equity problems cited by the court remain my focus. 
 
For all the consternation caused by the mistakes in the bill, they are solvable problems. I have talked to many colleagues who are committed to moving the fix through the process as soon as we get back. Appropriate language is drafted and ready to go. 
Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or ideas about these or other legislative issues. It is my honor to serve you.

Sincerely,


Rep. Melissa Rooker
Kansas State Representative, District 25
Serving Northeast Johnson County
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Melissa Rooker,