Goessel school board hosts meeting with state legislators

Prior to its regular Nov. 14 meeting, the USD 411 Board of Education hosted a public meeting with state legislators Jay Emler and Bob Brookens and selected members of the community in the elementary school gym.

?We?re here to build bridges of trust,? said board president Dan Miller as he welcomed Emler and Brookens.

Miller also introduced a panel of James Wiens, Linda Peters, Cindy Wiens, Janna Duerksen and Brian Stucky.

James Wiens, board vice president, served as moderator for the meeting.

Wiens said he has worked with the two legislators for two years.

?They?ve definitely done some good things for our community,? Wiens said.

Peters, representing Bethesda Home as outgoing chief executive officer, said Gov. Brownback announced Nov. 8 a major overhaul of Medicaid and asked for clarification.

Emler said, ?Believe it or not, we don?t have a lot more details on some of these things.?

He said that as he understands it, the state will need a waiver from the federal government in order to use KanCare, the system Brownback is developing.

But Emler said he wonders if KanCare will be able to provide the care that people need. He also mentioned keeping people in their own homes as long as possible as one way to cut Medi?caid expenses.

Brookens agreed that keeping people at home longer ?is the talk.? He mentioned concern with medical services: ?You might not be going to a physician?s office as you are now.?

Brookens also expressed ?great concern? for people with mental illness whose needs are not being met.

Shifting to education, Wiens asked Brookens and Emler to speak about the governor’s financing plans.

Emler talked about 20 to 15 mills, eliminating the local option budget, no limit on local taxing, and a sales-tax pool at the county level. He also mentioned block grants for rural schools, students with special needs, low income students, and student proficiency.

Emler said special education funding would likely not change.

Brookens assured the audience, ?we will provide districts with a level of certainty as we transition from one? plan to another.

He added, ?We do not know what that means.?

Referring to sales tax, Cindy Wiens, with the Goessel Community Foundation, said, ?Here in Goessel, many people go out of the county? to shop, noting that would help other districts, but not Goessel.

Brookens said if Kansas?s income tax is lowered, ?we?re going to rely more on property tax and sales tax…. Each one of those taxes goes to somebody…. But if we keep them balanced, we give everyone equally.?

Wiens asked how income tax will be replaced if it is abolished. Emler said nine states do not have income tax; some of them do well, but some do not do well.

Brookens said Texas and Oklahoma are two states with low taxes, but that Kansas ranks seventh in the quality of schools, while Oklahoma ranks 38th and Texas 41st

?No income tax in Oklahoma is a misnomer,? Brookens added. Because their corporations are taxed on the money they bring in, regardless of what they spend.

He also emphasized that Texas and Oklahoma generate revenue through oil and gas.

When Stucky asked about rural opportunity zones, Brookens said under that plan, ?you?re not going to pay any income tax for five years if you move to a rural opportunity zone.?

He added, ?The finest schools in Kansas are all rural schools.?

Duerksen asked about school accreditation and about licensure for teachers.

Emler said he had not heard about accreditation, but ?there is still discussion about? licensure, but he has not ?heard any big push on that.?

Brookens briefly mentioned public, charter and private schools and said that Kansas was ahead of the federal government?s No Child Left Behind standards.

Wiens read a question about KPERS that had been submitted from the audience.

Emler said, ?I think you?re gong to see some change to the KPERS plan.? He said more schoolteachers are on the plan than any other group, including firefighters and police officers.

Brookens added that a ?defined benefit plan? might be coming in contrast to the current ?defined contribution plan.?

After Wiens thanked Brookens and Emler for coming, he asked, ?What are some things we can do for you??

Emler suggested sending him personal letters or e-mails.

?I answer my own e-mails,? he said. ?Make it concise. Make it your own ideas.?

He said he does not read form letters.

Emler also suggested going to Topeka.

?Talk to the governor,? he said.

Brookens said he would echo everything Emler suggested.

?We do appreciate hearing from you…. Do not be afraid to ask us to help you schedule a meeting with the governor,? he said.

Brookens said many subjects had been addressed in the meeting.

?Because I have strong feelings on it, that doesn?t mean I?m right,? he said, adding that his job is to advocate for his constituents in ways that do not harm our ?brothers and sisters in Wichita.?

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