Capitol Update: ‘Snatching a stalemate from the jaws of defeat’ with school funding fix

Legislators chatted on the floor of the Kansas Senate during the special session last week.
Legislators chatted on the floor of the Kansas Senate during the special session last week.

We’ve offered each member of northeast Johnson County’s statehouse delegation the opportunity to share their thoughts on the outcome and significance of the special session that wrapped last week. (Rep. Jarrod Ousley’s column can be found here). Rep. Stephanie Clayton shares her thoughts on the session below:

I write this column having just received the news that the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the Kansas Legislature has satisfied the requirements for the Equity portion of the Gannon school funding lawsuit. This news comes after the Governor signed a bill that passed the House and Senate by very large margins.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton
Rep. Stephanie Clayton
This happened after a series of events, which included many closed-door meetings among stakeholders and lawmakers. We will most likely never know the entire truth behind what was said, who was willing to give up what in order to achieve their ends, what was offered, or what was threatened, by whom, and against whom.

What we do know is that we ended up with a bill that will ensure that our schools will open in August (My apologies to any hopeful children who might be reading this!) The bill is not the ideal for the Shawnee Mission District. We still lose $1.4 million in cuts to our Local Option Budget aid, and several other districts lose money, as well.

I am pleased to say that, by standing strong with other legislators, the Northeast Johnson County Delegation pushed against a much more harmful plan that would have resulted in much deeper cuts to the operating budgets of not only the Shawnee Mission District, but school districts across the state. I would not call this Special Session a “Victory”, so much as I would refer to it as snatching a stalemate from the jaws of defeat. Our schools are open, major cuts were avoided, but we still have a long way to go before our education system is stable.

It used to be that Kansans were never at the point where the shutdown of one of our most important functions of government was ever even a possibility, let alone a legitimate concern. People from all political stripes may point fingers at who and why and how, but, I think that it is most important that we all take notice of the fact that things have gotten so dire that, in the past year, your state government has had to work both to stop furloughs of state workers, and to avoid school shut-downs. That Kansas is becoming more Washingtonian by the moment is a sad state of affairs, indeed.

It is my most fervent hope that Shawnee Mission Post readers not only exercise their civic minds, but encourage your friends to do so, too. You deserve a government that does not come to the brink of shutdown, but, rather, hums along in such an efficient manner that you don’t even notice that it is there.

I enjoy hearing from you! You can e-mail me at Stephanie.Clayton@house.ks.gov, follow me on twitter @sscjocoks, or stop by Foo’s in Leawood for my monthly legislative coffee this Saturday, July 2nd, between 10 and 11 a.m.