Reece Rogers is the author of a series of introductory interviews for local political candidates entitled Learn Local. I am proud to be his first interviewee. The questions are personal and thoughtful, a good vehicle to get to know me. You can find the remainder of his remarks at http://bit.ly/24IhaRh
Lynn Rogers is running to be the Kansas State Senate representative for District 25. District 25 is located in Sedgwick County and covers a large segment of Wichita. Lynn has been a member of the Wichita Board of Education for 15 years. He is running as a Democrat.
The Interview with Lynn Rogers
You have been a member of the Wichita School Board since 2001. What have you learned during this time that would make you a skilled lawmaker?
My first meeting at the board table I realized the decisions we would make would affect our city, specifically impacting all of our children and staff, our livelihoods, our retirements and the economic health of our city. These are serious things. I was determined to take the time to understand the issues, reading and asking questions rather than relying on sound bites on TV or my personal experience.
Over the years I have learned that I am more effective when I work in tandem with a group of people. I discovered who could offer understanding I lacked, who was trustworthy and the importance of keeping your eye on the desired end result or you get lost in the weeds. I have had the privilege of serving with some exemplary public servants. They motivate me to go beyond the minimum.
On a personal level, good public service takes time. It takes time to thoroughly understand policy and a budget. It takes time to talk to stakeholders and understand their concerns. It takes time to work through disagreements, treating everyone with respect. One of the privileges of my more than 15 years on the school board has been those long-term relationships that come with helping others become successful. Every graduation ceremony inspires me as I contemplate the hard work and perseverance that the students, staff and parents exhibit. The future is promising for people with those attributes.
Why should Wichitans who might typically vote for a Republican consider voting for you?
Most Kansans don’t wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see the label of Democrat or Republican. They are a Kansan first. Many Kansans now realize they need to vote for an individual rather than a choosing a candidate based on their party label. We have many legislators who were elected because the sound bites in their campaign sounded promising, but have proved to be unable to make difficult decisions for the good of the people. Political posturing is too prevalent.
I was a part of the Republican party, but chose to reregister as a Democrat because the GOP leadership has abandoned the middle class family and demonized the poor. The strength of our state is based on hard-working Kansans who are committed to making a better life for themselves and their neighbors. Economic health follows when we encourage that trait. Common-sense values like these are simply not what the Republican party represents today. The Kansas Democratic party and their leadership and volunteers have welcomed me warmly. I appreciate their thoughtfulness and enthusiasm and their trust in my ability to lead.
Wichita has elected me 4 times in the last 15 years on a non-partisan basis. My record is based on a commitment to public service. I genuinely strive to do what is best for our city. Voters can be assured that will continue.
How have Governor Brownback’s tax policies effected Kansans? What needs to be done differently?
Governor Brownback’s tax policies have created and sustained an unstable economy. We must abandon his failed experiment. Many business owners realize the crisis the tax passthrough has created for our state and are expressing their desire to see it repealed. Citizens know the Brownback plan is unfair, and resent paying the highest food sales tax in the country and the wholesale abandonment of our roads, schools and healthcare. Our middle class is rapidly shrinking under the crushing load of the unequitable tax burden and our most vulnerable citizens no longer have a safety net.
Kansas tax policy was built on a three legged stool model — equal parts sales, income and property taxes. We must create a comprehensive tax bill that will actually repeal the 2012 tax pass through and restore fairness to our tax code. Currently, we continue to dig ourselves into an ever-deepening hole, rather than moving forward to create a brighter future for our state.
Why is it pertinent for legislators to pass an equitable school budget before the June 30th shutdown?
The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the current block grant system is unconstitutional because it is inequitable. Those from wealthy areas are able to generate significantly more funding for their schools through local property tax, while our urban poor and rural schools struggle. Every student deserves the opportunity to have an appropriate education that paves the way for success in life. A zip code should not be the determining factor of its quality.
Dozens of judges at all levels (District, Appeals, State and Federal) have weighed in on the school funding lawsuits and all agree that the state is not meeting its constitutional duty. Our three branches of government are designed to work together. Unfortunately, our Governor and Legislative leaders created this crisis when they refused their responsibility to create an equitable school budget, instead accusing the Supreme Court Justices of judicial over reach. The outcome of the ideology that the state budget should be “starved” so that community services are not funded has become painfully and disastrously obvious.
We are all aware that a school shut down would create problems preparing for the 2016–2017 school year. The impact on our city, however must also be considered. USD 259’s payroll and non-bond vendor payments total $50-$52 million each month. Most of our teachers exercised the lump-sum payment option for the summer, but our custodians and others did not have that option and will not be able to earn a living. Beyond harming our employees, the potential lost investment of money in our community alone could easily be close to $40 million if the shut down is of a short duration.
Legislators must do their constitutional duty and fund our schools, equitably and adequately. And it must be done now.
The primary vote for Kansas State Senate will be held on August 2, and the general election vote will be held on November 8.
Lynn Rogers is not related to the author of this article.