Left off for past 2 years, NEJC Republicans set to return to House, Senate education committees

Rep. Melissa Rooker at Monday's UCS Johnson County forum.
Rep. Melissa Rooker will return to the House Education Committee after a two year absence.

The notable absence of a northeast Johnson County Republican on the House and Senate education committees the past two legislative sessions will come to an end when lawmakers convene in Topeka next month.

Rep. Melissa Rooker, who was left off the House Education Committee by then-Speaker Ray Merrick ahead of the 2015 legislative session after Rooker opposed several efforts favored by conservative leaders, will return to the influential committee for 2017. Rooker will also serve on the new K-12 Budget Committee, which will be tasked with crafting a funding formula to replace the block grant system passed two years ago.

Incoming Sen. Barbara Bollier, who had served as a representative since 2010 before being elected to the upper chamber in November, will serve on the Senate Education Committee. Kay Wolf, who Bollier will be replacing, was left off Education in 2015 after having served on the committee the previous two years.

Rooker said new Speaker Ron Ryckman had offered her the option of serving as vice-chair on another committee or serving on both education committees. She said the decision was a “no brainer.”

“That’s clearly where I belong,” she said.

Rooker said she believes K-12 Funding Committee Chair Larry Campbell, a Republican from Olathe, will lead a good faith effort to get a new formula crafted.

“He’s a stand up guy who I think shares the desire to see an appropriate formula developed,” she said.

As for the Education Committee, which deals with education policy issues outside of funding, Rooker will be joined by area Democrats Jerry Stogsdill, who was elected to his first term in November, and Jarrod Ousley, who served on the committee for the first time last session.

Rooker said she had hopes that the committee will return to a focus on advancing initiatives that have the support to get passed by the whole House.

“Certainly the committee had been stacked in a way to ensure certain things came out of it that previous leadership wanted,” Rooker said. “But it didn’t matter, because we did what we needed to do overall [to block passage on the House floor].”