School funding decision expected to shape next legislative session

Education and money, often the two intertwined, will be the hot topics in the legislature once again this year, area legislators said this morning.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Melissa Rooker, Sen. Pat Pettey and Sen. Kay Wolf at the Chamber breakfast Friday morning.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Melissa Rooker, Sen. Pat Pettey and Sen. Kay Wolf at the Chamber breakfast Friday morning.

The Gannon decision, awaited from the Kansas Supreme Court, could shape the session and make it contentious, Kansas Senator Kay Wolf said. The case revolves around whether the state legislature has adequately funded Kansas schools.

Sen. Wolf, other area state legislators and representatives of the Congressional delegation, spoke to the annual Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast Friday morning. Wolf said the state does not have the money, after the last tax cuts, to fund a high dollar amount if the court orders it.

Rep. Melissa Rooker who sits on the House education committee said a massive effort is under way to shift education philosophy in Kansas based on trying to privatize schools. The “public school system sets this country apart,” Rooker said. “Our founders fled a class system where you had to be wealthy to be educated. I believe in the power of our public schools.”

The new buzzword, she said, in the attempt to drive money to private schools is “student-centered financing.”

Rep. Stephanie Clayton told the group that Johnson County is not only the economic engine of the state, but the economic experiment that has shown results. If you have good schools, public safety, quality of life and a balanced tax system, business will come, she said. “Defend what you have built. This is the revenue generator.”

The Chamber also distributed its 2014 legislative agenda, which includes support for reforming the K-12 school finance formula and opposes diverting dedicated state highway funds for other use.