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00000179-cdc6-d978-adfd-cfc6d7d40002Coverage of the issues, races and people shaping Kansas elections in 2016, including statewide coverage in partnership with KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, and High Plains Public Radio.

Moderate Republicans Credited For School Funding Bill

Stephen Koranda
Moderate Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker is being credited with finding an alternative for school funding that didn't cut school aid.

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.

Elle covers education for KCUR. The best part of her job is talking to students. Before coming to KCUR in 2014, Elle covered Indiana education policy for NPR’s StateImpact project. Her work covering Indiana’s exit from the Common Core was nationally recognized with an Edward R. Murrow award. Her work at KCUR has been recognized by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Kansas City Press Club. She is a graduate of the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism. Elle regularly tweets photos of her dog, Kingsley. There is a wounded Dr. Ian Malcolm bobblehead on her desk.