On Nov. 8, Americans had the opportunity to vote for Trump or Clinton. Kansans, however, also voted to elect or re-elect congresspeople, state senators, state representatives and others, who will have a direct impact on their lives. These local leaders will decide the fate of public schools. They’ll consider reforming Kansas healthcare. Some are working towards a more transparent government, so that you, the public, can know what is going on.
With the motto “Working for Kansas,” Republican Kevin Yoder has represented the Third Congressional District, which includes Johnson County, for six years now. This election gave him the opportunity to do that for two more years.
In his three terms as congressman, Yoder has sponsored nineteen pieces of legislation. These include the Termination of Lifelong Pensions for Congress Act and the Congressional Pay Reduction Act, which were both aimed at balancing the U.S. budget. He has also passed a bill in the House which recognizes the importance of cancer research.
Junior Matthew McGannon works for Yoder’s campaign and, as a Republican, has always supported Yoder.
“I like that he protects the constitution,” McGannon said. “I respect the fact that Yoder honors his commitment to all the veterans and seniors that fought in the war.”
Senior Eric Blom does not support Yoder. He finds his ethics questionable and believes Yoder’s opponent, Sidie, would have been a better fit for the office.
“There was an ethics investigation against [Yoder] because of payday loan donations,” Blom said. “He voted to loosen restrictions on the industry after he got campaign donations from a lot of the members involved.”
According to yoder.house.gov, Yoder’s goals are based around balancing the U.S. budget, growing the economy and investing in and supporting local control of public education. Another one of his intentions is to end ISIS and terrorism.
Republican Barbara Bollier has served for four years as the Republican Representative of the seventh district of Kansas. This year, she won senator of the Seventh district, which runs from Westwood into Leawood.
Her biggest platform is changing the current budget and tax system, which is broken, according to Bollier. This would allow public schools to be fully funded. She is also working on expanding Medicaid and reforming the KanCare system, which is Kansas’ way of providing health care.
“I’ve read every school funding formula in the country and looked at all of them, to say ‘What’s different? What’s the same? What seems to work? Why?’” Bollier said. “So, I’m ready to move forward. I’m talking to school board members, I’m talking to people, I’m talking to teachers.”
While she is not working on a school funding formula by herself, she has discussed it with fellow legislatures and plans on participating in the process of creating one. Bollier wants to increase the actual base state aid per pupil, which is the amount of money allotted to each student.
“The thing that I really hope is that we aren’t continuing to call this K through 12 funding, but include early childhood, so that this is a comprehensive plan,” Bollier said. “Kindergarten would not be considered a half but a whole.”
Bollier’s moderacy as a Republican was the selling point for senior Lilly Lyddon when deciding between her and her opponent, Democrat Megan England.
“I voted for Bollier because while she’s Republican, she’s very moderate,” senior Lilly Lyddon said. “When you have a moderate, the liberal ideas that are important to me are still going to be represented and looked at, but I think the Republican side are going to be more willing to work with Bollier.”
Throughout the past four years, Republican and state representative Stephanie Clayton has helped to introduce the Kansas Transparency Act, which allows for audio broadcasts of legislative committee meetings. She also attempted to create a “law enforcement mutual aid region,” according to her bill, which would allow law enforcement officers on one side of the Kansas-Missouri state line to respond to critical incidents on the other side of the state line.
Now, Clayton will serve two more years as the state representative of the Nineteenth district, which runs from 83rd to past 95th and State Line to Metcalf.
The Mainstream Coalition, a nonpartisan group that promotes moderate politics in Kansas, chose to endorse Clayton through a related team called the MainPAC.
“The PAC endorses what we call ‘friendly incumbents,’” Mainstream board member and East parent Lisa Veglahn said. “So Stephanie [Clayton] has a proven track record of her work matching what Mainstream uses as our values and the issues we prioritize.”
Mainstream supports moderate candidates who will fight for separation of church and state, fiscal responsibility and, most appropriately for Clayton, an adequately funded public education system.
“Stephanie [Clayton] has been actively shown in her work around education issues,” Veglahn said.
East graduate and past Mainstream Coalition intern Will Bledsoe voted for Clayton.
“She has one of the best voting records,” Bledsoe said. “[She also] is pro-transparency in Kansas government and tweets about every single session that she’s a part of.”
Democrat Jerry Stogsdill taught in the Shawnee Mission School District for eleven years as a teacher. He served three terms as the NEA (National Education Association) president while teaching at the K-State education department. Then he became president of the Trade Association for all high tech industries in Kansas and Missouri.
Now, he will be serving as the Twenty-First district’s state representative, serving squarely within the East district between State Line and Metcalf and 67th and 83rd.
“I’m really the only candidate running that has expertise in [school finance and economic development],” Stogsdill said.
Others encouraged Stogsdill to run for the position because they knew of this background, as well as his passion for maintaining excellent public schools.
“I’m sick of seeing our public schools being attacked right and left from Topeka,” Stogsdill said. “Same way with our universities. I’ve run across four families in the last two weeks that told me they could not afford to send their kids back to college this year. Two from KU, two from K-State.”
Because of this, increasing funding for public education is what he plans on looking at first when he gets to Topeka. He plans on putting the 330,000 LLCs — businesses — that Brownback decided to stop taxing back on the tax rolls.
“That was the big ‘Brownback Experiment’ – take those companies off the tax rolls,” Stogsdill said. “In his opinion, then, companies would just flock to Kansas, and they would produce in his words ‘100,000 new jobs.’ Well, nobody’s flocking to Kansas. We’re going to have to put those companies back on the tax roll.”
Republican Melissa Rooker has focused on education since she entered office as the state representative of the Twenty-fifth district in 2013.
“[My focus on education] pre-dates my election to office,” Rooker said.
She was recently elected to serve again as representative, and she’ll continue to attempt to allow for more funding to Kansas public schools. Along with this, she also will focus on reforming the state’s financial plan, which will allow for more money to public schools. Right now, the school funding formula does not account for differing numbers of students in a district.
“I favor a funding formula that accounts for the actual student population in our districts across the state,” Rooker said. “And [one that] provides funding that will help with the extra needs that certain student populations bring – kids that are learning the English language, kids with special needs, gifted kids.”
Senior Jessie Peterson voted for Rooker because of her focus on education.
“She’s really focused on the education side of it; she started out as a Shawnee Mission School District mom,” Peterson said. “It was really neat for me how much she prioritized education and ignoring the party boundaries to make sure education is still a priority is really important for me.”
Rooker is excited to see the changes that the new election cycle will bring to the makeup of the legislature.
“I’m very optimistic that we have enough new membership and pragmatic people interested in restoring the appropriate process, involving public comments and leadership that allows for full debate on the issues,” Rooker said.