Health Care, Funding Top Concerns at Legislative Luncheon

Area educators brought priorities directly to state lawmakers at Smoky Hill Education Service Center’s 30th annual legislative luncheon on November 14.

School funding, healthcare and statewide economic development topped the areas of concern from educational leaders, who had the opportunity to ask questions of state senators and representatives.

Chris Moddelmog, SHESC Executive Director, said the event has been held every year since the service center was founded in 1990. Much has changed in education since then, but there is at least one constant – the care and concern for education from everyone in the room.

“We all value education,” Moddelmog said. “We all value what it can do for our state and citizens.”

About 60 people attended the luncheon. Members of the legislature present were: Katie Sawyer, district director for U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall (R-District 1); Rep. Susan Carlson (R-District 64); Rep. Bill Pannbacker (R-District 106); Sen. Randall Hardy (R-District 24); Rep. Diana Dierks (R-District 71); Rep. Stephen Owens (R-District 74); Rep. Steven Johnson (R-District 108); and Rep. Sydney Carlin (D-District 66).

After brief introductions around the room, legislators gave responses to pre-submitted questions from area educators, followed by an open Q & A. Clear themes emerged, including concerns about increasing health insurance costs, funding for special education, mental health care for students and families and economic development in Kansas.

Rep. Diana Dierks said they, as legislators, need to listen to ideas and input from educators, which is why events like the luncheon are so important. She went on to say legislators need help from educators to make sure laws and policies are done at the correct pace and in the right order.

“If you’re going to jump in the ocean, first you have to get your bathing suit on,” she said.

As Moddelmog closed the luncheon, he said the day’s discussion and opportunity to connect was an important opportunity to improve education in Kansas.

“I am confident that we are headed in the right direction, and it will begin with the leadership up here and in this room,” he said. “Education has been and will continue to be one of our state’s greatest strengths.”