At MainStream forum, moderate Rep. Rooker predicts she’ll draw primary opponent

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, Rep. Melissa Rooker, and Sen. Pat Pettey answered questions Thursday at the fourth MainStream Coalition legislative forum.

Governor Sam Brownback and the conservative Kansas Legislature got very little love from the crowd or the panelists at MainStream Coalition’s legislative forum Thursday, which again played to a full house at Colonial Church.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis called last year’s income tax reduction “the most reckless thing I have ever seen.” We are facing deficits, Davis said, “as far down the road as you can see. I wanted to come here tonight and sound an alarm about our public education system.”

Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fairway and Sen. Pat Pettey, who represents portions of Wyandotte and north Johnson Counties also addressed the attack on education they witnessed in this year’s session. Rooker recounted that quality of life and quality of schools brought her family back to Fairway from years of living in Los Angeles. “Our schools are in survival mode,” Rooker said, and can’t improve without more funding. They tried to “privatize and voucherize” the public schools in the legislature, she said.

Pettey classified the charter school bill as the most onerous piece of legislation affecting public schools and predicted it will be back. Many of the bills that were seen by the panel as assaults on public education were blocked in committee. Pettey said with only eight Democrats and a few moderate Republicans in the Senate, anything that makes it to the floor and the governor backs, gets passed. Pettey also observed that in the legislature “we don’t like the federal government telling us what to do, but then we turn around and do the opposite for our cities.”

Rooker predicted that she will draw a primary opponent next election because of her views and votes. “It was a difficult session. I was accused of not caring about our schools.”

Rooker has long been active in school organizations and is seen as a pro-education legislator.

When she voted against the gun bill, Rooker said, she dedicated her vote to the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting. As she read their names, she was heckled.