Moderate Republicans Credited For School Funding Bill

Jun 27, 2016

Much of the credit for keeping Kansas schools open is going to Fairway Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker and other moderates who put forward a plan that didn’t reduce school aid.

Conservative leadership would’ve shaved a half-percent off the top of all schools’ budgets with their original bill. But Rooker offered an amendment that gave lawmakers an alternative.

“We were able to get people to say, ‘Well, I won’t support that. I can’t go home and defend taking classroom money,'" she said.

Moderates’ funding bill didn’t even make it out of committee. But House rules meant they had to debate Rooker's amendment to the conservative plan.

Sources of funding for the school funding bill.

The amendment uses $13 million in proceeds from the sale of the Kansas Bioscience Authority to aid poor districts while avoiding classroom cuts.

Johnson County districts would’ve lost millions.

“Yes, I care about my Johnson County schools, my local schools, but my goodness, it was every school, every child in the state that would be affected if we didn’t get it done," Rooker said.

But she says a bigger win is the plaintiffs in an ongoing court case agreeing to the equity fix. Rooker says without the extra infusion of cash she proposed, party leadership’s plan probably would’ve fallen short on another measure: adequacy. She says there’s still a lot of work to be done to make sure schools are getting enough dollars to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

What ultimately passed is a bipartisan compromise. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has said he’ll sign it.

The #KS2016 Kansas Elections Project is a statewide collaboration between KMUW and other public media.