State representative candidates on the issues: funding for public schools


Today we run the responses from the candidates for Kansas state representative seats in northeast Johnson County to the second question submitted by our readers. Candidates for four districts are represented in the answers below. This is the second question of five we posed to the candidates on behalf of readers.

This year the Kansas Legislature approved a modest increase in the local option budget (LOB) that allows school districts to raise more tax money locally. Do you believe that local school districts should be allowed to raise additional unlimited local dollars, with voter approval, once the state formula is adequately funded?

Pat Stratton 2014Patricia Stratton – District 19 challenger

As a retired school teacher I am all for increased spending on Kansas Public Schools.  Governor Brownback has reduced the amount of money spent in the classroom by $548 per pupil.  We are spending less than we did 6 years ago.  As a result of Governor  Brownback’s economic  experiment, class sizes are large again.  Some school districts have been forced to close because of a lack of funds. While I am in favor of an increase in the L.O.B. in Johnson County, I am aware that other less affluent districts may not have the same advantage.  School funding needs to be increased throughout the state.  Every Kansas child deserves a quality education to prepare for the future.  Paul Davis wants to fund our schools, and he needs Democratic Representatives to help make the changes needed in the Kansas Legislature to get them done.

Stephanie Clayton 2014Stephanie Clayton – District 19 incumbent

I have heard overwhelmingly from constituents on this matter, and there is one thing that they tend to agree on when it comes to education funding, regardless of Party or ideology: that they would prefer increased local authority over education tax dollars. Raising local, unlimited dollars is not something that can be done within the current constructs of the law. I am awaiting the decision in the Petrella vs Brownback court case (a Federal case) that would allow this.

Barbara Bollier 2014Barbara Bollier – District 21 incumbent

The first task for the state is to adequately fund the formula! I would be open to tweaking some parts of the formula, but bottom line, we must follow the constitution and fund it! Unfortunately, funding the formula will not be an option this upcoming session since state revenues are dropping precipitously and it is more likely that there will actually be cuts to education.
The bottom line: we are not funding the current formula. I was a member of the group that was responsible for drafting the bill to increase the local option budget (LOB) and voted for the initial bill. I believe that when the formula has been funded, school districts should be able to raise local dollars with voter approval. However, I truly doubt that the LOB will be increased once we fund the formula; there will not be a need.

Amy Bell 2014Amy Bell – District 21 challenger

The key to this issue is the adequate funding. Right now the local option budget (LOB) is too often looked to as the solution to school funding when it should be supplement. Once the state funding formula is fully funded, the issue of the LOB can be credibly addressed. While I do support the right of all Kansas students to have a top notch education I do not support trying to level the playing field by barring communities from taxing themselves. If a school district votes to impose further taxes to fund education, they should be allowed to.

Jarrod Ousley 2014Jarrod Ousley – District 24

My focus will be on getting education funding back to constitutionally adequate levels.  If we can fund the existing formula, our schools will see an immediate and direct benefit; which may eliminate the pressure to continually raise local property taxes.




Brandon Hermreck 2014Brandon Hermreck – District 24

Absolutely, I feel it is laudable for a fellow citizen from a given school district to reach into their own pockets to help out the children of the district. However, reaching into someone else’s pockets to help out the district is worthy of condemnation and it despicable.





Melissa Rooker 2014Melissa Rooker – District 25 incumbent

Our first priority is to provide adequate funding for our public schools. Accounting tricks and enhanced pension and capitol outlay dollars do not help operating budgets. Overall education spending has increased due to KPERS catch-up payments and court-ordered equalization aid, but the money allocated for our schools to use for their operating budgets – the money for the classroom – has been stagnant for years. New legislation passed last session requires certain local mill levies to be sent to the state before being sent to the school districts in order to count it as state aid. When adjusted for inflation, Kansas is spending $851 less per pupil than we were in 2008. I believe in local control and trust the people to determine what is reasonable when it comes to deciding whether to increase our local taxes. However, the Local Option Budget was created to be an enhancement to state funding, not a replacement for state funding. A legal case winding its way through the federal court system (led by one of my constituents) Petrella vs. Brownback challenges the cap on local taxing effort on US Constitutional grounds. We may win the right to raise unlimited local dollars, but the legal requirement to equalize that effort could be dangerous to the state budget, and thus feed the cycle of perpetual litigation over school finance. The best option is for the state to live up to its constitutional duty to provide adequate funding in the first place.

Jennifer Robinson 2014Jennifer Robinson – District 25 challenger

This question recognizes the biggest problem with education funding in our state: Governor Brownback and his allies in the legislature have demonstrated that they are not interested in providing adequate funding for public schools at the state level.  This is their number one responsibility under the Kansas Constitution, and they have failed miserably.  We should not let the recent small increase in LOB authority mask the fact that the governor and legislature generally continue to fail to fund the schools adequately.
If elected, I will support full funding of the state formula – not only because it is a legal requirement, but also the right thing to do for all of Kansas. This formula has been grossly under funded by Governor Brownback and the legislature.
I absolutely support the ability of local school districts to raise their own unlimited supplemental dollars for education once the state formula is adequately funded. However, I’m concerned that the increased reliance of the LOB in the absence of adequate state funding will cause a continued rise in property taxes that many in this community are struggling with today.

Tomorrow: State individual income tax revenue was again below projections in September collections. Do the continuing shortfalls pose a genuine threat to the delivery of services in the state? When the Legislature convenes in 2015, what steps should it take to address these shortfalls?