Merriam mom’s walk to Topeka to lobby for school funding spreads to Manhattan, Emporia for 5th year

A group will be making the trek from Merriam to Topeka for the fifth year in a row to advocate for better school funding.
A group will be making the trek from Merriam to Topeka for the fifth year in a row to advocate for better school funding.

For the fifth year in a row now, a group of education advocates will be departing from a park in Merriam to make the 60-mile trek by foot to Topeka, where they’ll demonstrate to call for more funding for Kansas schools.

But when they get to the capitol this year, they’ll have company.

Started by Merriam mother Heather Ousley in 2013 as a way to raise awareness about the financial strains Kansas public schools were facing, the group departing from Merriam has grown each year, with local group Game On for Kansas Schools helping organize the event in its first years. This year, however, there will be teams from Manhattan and Emporia making their own treks to Topeka as well — and the mission has broadened beyond just school funding.

Under the organizing efforts of a group called The Kansas People’s Agenda, education advocates will be joined by social workers concerned about cuts to Kansas’s safety net programs and construction industry workers concerned about cuts to KDOT highway projects. The group is calling for three changes to current Kansas tax policy: the elimination of the LLC loophole, the restoration of the high-income tax bracket, and the removal of the “glide path to zero” income tax.

“I’m walking this year with Kansans concerned about so many issues that have been hurt because of the 2012 tax cuts, because when we advocate together we amplify each other’s voices and share our strength. It’s time to return to a revenue policy that will allow our state to flourish,” Ousley said.

The group will depart from Chatlain Park in Merriam Friday morning, where Colonial Church Pastor Aaron Roberts will deliver a blessing to the walkers’ feet. They’ll meet the other groups in Topeka at 10:30 a.m. Monday, where they’ll gather outside the Supreme Court building, and then walk to the second floor of the capitol for a rally.