Yael T. Abouhalkah

How the good old GOP boys got beat in Topeka and Kansas kids won

Kansas City, Kan., Superintendent Cynthia Lane deserves credit for successfully battling to kill a flawed school funding bill last week in Topeka.
Kansas City, Kan., Superintendent Cynthia Lane deserves credit for successfully battling to kill a flawed school funding bill last week in Topeka. The Associated Press

As all Kansans know by now, the good old boys in the ultra-conservative Republican power base of the Legislature seized a huge victory last week.

They mowed over school superintendents, pushed past moderate GOP members and Democrats, and approved a $13 million cut in education funds.

Wait, what’s that? None of that actually happened?

In fact, those extremist Republican lawmakers fortunately lost big time.

A better plan was endorsed by the Legislature because of solid leadership from women like Johnson County moderate GOP Reps. Melissa Rooker, Barbara Bollier and Stephanie Clayton; Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka; Democratic Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore of Kansas City, Kan.; and Kansas City, Kan., Superintendent Cynthia Lane, who stood strong in saying there had to be another solution.

Yes, these women also worked alongside male lawmakers in killing the silly cut to K-12 schools, including some conservative Republicans who didn’t want to make that move in an election year.

The positive result last week — approved by the state Supreme Court on Tuesday — was a temporary fix to the school funding problem in Kansas.

Naturally, it’s impossible to get the ultra-cons in Topeka to admit defeat, to concede that the original plan House Speaker Ray Merrick had hoped to ram through Friday morning was derailed a few hours later and replaced by something better.

Take Jeff Melcher, a Johnson County senator, who delusionally took to social media to claim victory for his side.

Ditto for Jim Denning, another Johnson County senator who couldn’t accept reality.

And include Gov. Sam Brownback in that list for his continued political obviousness to what happened, as he back-slapped GOP Reps. Ron Ryckman of Olathe and Ty Masterson of Andover for their work on the school bill.

Their view of the world: This was a bipartisan victory because their original plan was slightly altered along the way, and they got the mean lawyers who are suing the state for more money for schools to sign off on the final bill.

From that list of players, Ryckman stands out as the one who did act more responsibly once it was clear the original idea of taking $13 million away from the schools was not going to win the day.

Meanwhile, Rooker has emerged from this debate as a battle-scarred traditional Republican who had to fight to kill the funding cut even after superintendents in Johnson County appeared resigned to losing more money.

“It’s a joke to think that we will satisfy the court by taking money out of the classroom to put into property tax relief,” she said last Thursday of the extremists’ proposal.

I’ve been among those who dubbed the successful measure that eventually emerged in Topeka the “Rooker plan,” irritating her critics.

Rooker’s name popped up several times last week as a leader battling for change.

“Rooker and a small coalition of Republicans are pushing for a bill that would take money from a variety of sources ... to avoid the cut to schools,” The Star reported.

And a timeline of events last Friday shows that John Robb, a lawyer for the school districts suing the state, said “that the plan circulated by Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fairway appears to be ‘good to go....’”

After the smoke cleared, public schools may be constitutionally funded for another year.

But the same people who created this mess — the Melchers and Dennings of the world — are still in power.

Voters need to get rid of them in the 2016 elections and put more moderate Republicans and Democrats in charge in Topeka.

After all, look at what they just achieved for the kids of Kansas.

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