Let’s hope it’s not a precursor of things to come.
Earlier this week, the discord and downright petty nastiness of Kansas politics reared their heads in a meeting of the Legislative Educational Planning Committee.
Behind it all is the intraparty feuding in the Republican ranks. It spilled out in the final meeting of an interim committee whose members included five participants who will not be in the Legislature when the new term begins next month.
The scenario was this: Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, started to make a motion to return school funding levels to $4,492 in base state aid per pupil. At that point, the committee chairman, Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, declared the meeting adjourned and walked out with two Republican colleagues.
Vratil’s motion, apparently symbolic at this point, was approved 7-0 by the committee members who remained. Among those seven were those five who won’t be back: Vratil, who’s retiring; Sens. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford, and Bob Marshall, R-Fort Scott, who were defeated by more conservative Republicans in the August primary election; and Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, who was defeated in the November general election.
The acrimonious display was a stick in the eye for the legislators who were seeking to increase education funding to the level the state had established for the final year in a three-year plan OK’d in 2006 — before it reneged and began slicing the dollars to their current level of $3,838.
Apparently all that was accomplished at the meeting was to highlight the childish behavior of lawmakers and to spotlight the ill will that clouds the capitol’s hallways and meeting rooms.
Interestingly, perhaps, the two committee members who voted in favor of the funding restoration and who will be returning to Topeka for the coming year’s session both are Lawrence Democrats: Sen. Marci Francisco and Rep. Barbara Ballard.
To the point at hand: Good luck to school districts in particular and taxpayers and voters in general if these antics and attitudes persist when the Legislature convenes anew.