Last week, a hearing took place in the House Education Committee regarding HB 2504 recommending the reduction of the number of school districts in Kansas, in theory eliminating administrative and other non-classroom costs.
Administrators, patrons and school board members, including Tom Benoit from Palco, came to the capitol to testify the plan is not acceptable for the future of public schools in Kansas. During the weekend, the chairman of the House Education Committee said the bill will not move further as there are too many questions that do not have answers. What this means is for now we have a small victory; however, we must start asking some tough questions about what we realistically want for the future of education. The clock will not roll back to allow school funding to return to the way it was 30 or 40 years ago, as our Legislature continues to be made up of an urban majority.
It is in our best interests to take an active role in the discussion forming the future of education rather than have state government determine what the next steps are.
Transparency is an underlying theme during the session. There have been several bills introduced which will bring more accountability and transparency to state government from what is discussed in committees to easier ways to find out where money is being spent. Last week, the House voted on a few bills that were left from last year ó one regarding judicial selection, which would have given citizens the opportunity to vote to change the Kansas Constitution about the way Kansas Supreme Court Justices would be selected.
The majority of members wanted to keep it the way it is, so it didnít gain the necessary number of votes for it to move forward. Five justices are up for retention in November.
I appreciate the conversations and other comments I received regarding this bill. It will be interesting to see if there is a concerted effort by any special interest groups to target them.
Another bill aimed at transparency in public schools was SB 188. It dealt with having school budget information easy to find on the home page of the schoolís website. I believe most of the schools in the 110th District already comply with this; the addition to the bill was a $1,000-a-day penalty if a school failed to have the information posted and updated by March 1 of each year. Again, the measure is to encourage more transparency from those who are the recipients of tax dollars. Ultimately, the bill failed 58-61-6.
While transparency can bring a lot of information to light, it also might bring unintended consequences and misinterpreted information, creating more problems than intended to solve. The bottom line is communication with elected officials. If there is something you donít understand or agree with, seek answers.
Those from the 110th in Topeka this past week included: Tom Benoit, Palco USD 269, board member; Larry Wysell, superintendent, Palco USD 269; Brian Brady, First Care Clinic, Hays; Ann Pfeifer, Ellis County treasurer; Cynthia Linner, Norton Country treasurer; Stockton Mayor Kim Thomas; Plainville Mayor Kelli Hansen; Keith Schlaegel, Stockton city manager; Sandy Rogers, Stockton city commissioner; Roger Hrabe, Rooks County Economic Development director; Chris Kollman, Stockton National Bank; Ginger Kollman, teacher, Stockton USD 271; and Mark Lowry, Stockton, president of Heritage Insurance.
Rep. Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, represents the 100th District in the Kansas House.