Monthly Archives: June 2012

Principal of impoverished Wichita school pleads with court for funds

TOPEKA — The principal of one of Wichita’s poorest schools today gave judges in the state school-finance trial a ground-level lesson in how cutbacks have hurt her effort to teach a difficult-to-teach population.

Amy Hungria, principal of Hamilton Middle School, said cutbacks have dramatically hurt her efforts to educate students in a neighborhood plagued by generations of poverty, prostitution and drug dealing.

“We not only focus on educational aspect of it,” Hungria said of running the school. “We are also clothing our students, feeding our students. I refer to our nurse’s office as the clinic … That takes a lot of time and energy in order to meet those basic needs first.”

The school is situated on South Broadway, between Lincoln and Pawnee.

About 96 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, a traditional measure used by schools to define poverty. And of the remaining 4 percent, some would qualify if the parents would fill out the paperwork, Hungria said.

A fourth of the school is in special education classes; another fourth are in the English as a second language program, Hungria testified. Some are in both.

And when it comes to standardized tests, “over 50 percent of our students are not where they’re supposed to be at this time,” she said.

School districts, including Wichita, are suing the state alleging that the Legislature and governor have failed in their constitutional duty to provide adequate funds for public education.

Hungria was the last of a half-dozen Wichita teachers and administrators to testify in the trial, which began June 4.

Because of budget cuts, closed schools and boundary realignment, she said the student population at Hamilton will rise from 524 pupils at the end of the last school year to 663 next year.

“And I’m not seeing any additional allocation,” she added.

She testified to a catalogue of cuts at Hamilton since the Legislature, faced with its own recession-caused budget problems, began reducing school per-pupil funding three years ago.

She said three of the biggest losses were a school-resource officer, a truant officer and an assistant principal They dealt with discipline problems and at times would go to students’ doors to bring them to school if the parents didn’t make them come.

Now, she said she has to divert her own time from educational leadership to discipline and school safety.

“It is not unknown for myself and a janitor to ask vagrants to leave our school property so they don’t interact with our students,” she said.

She testified that when she came to the school in 2008, she had full-time math and literacy coaches to work with her teachers; now she shares those positions with other schools.

“I essentially went from having 10 days a week to two days a week,” she said.

She also lost two of her nine special-education teachers, a math teacher and a language arts teacher. The school librarian is now part-time and also teaches two classes in language arts.

Sixth-grade band has been canceled and the seventh- and eighth-grade band classes combined to save money, Hungria said.

All over the school, classes are getting larger. “As class sizes continue to increase, students are getting less one-on-one assistance,” of the type they need to have a realistic chance of succeeding, she said.

A key contention in the state’s case is that increased funding doesn’t necessarily mean better outcomes for the students.

Gaye Tibbets, one of the Wichita lawyers hired to represent the state, pointed out that some of the school’s test scores had improved, especially among special education students whose scores rose four percentage points in 2011, and eighth-grade math, where scores rose 14 percent.

However, she acknowledged that other scores were either flat or falling.

She also noted that the poverty-stricken students are eligible for as much as $1,800 a year worth of off-site and after-school tutoring.

Hungria said not as many students as she would like can take advantage of the tutoring opportunity.

The tutoring can be provided online, but “our families do not have electricity,” much less computers and Internet access, she said.

And while the tutors can go to the home, many of the children have to baby-sit younger siblings and the families live in such substandard housing that parents are reluctant to allow outsiders in the home.

Hungria appeared to catch a sympathetic ear from at least one member of the three-judge panel that will decide the case.

Retired Sherman County District Judge Jack Burr said he found it unfair that schools like Hamilton are held to the same testing standards as all other schools.

“It seems to me like everybody’s going over the same high jump, but you’re having to wear a 25-pound weight belt or something,” Burr said.

He said while it doesn’t have anything to do with the case at hand, “I’ll vote for you for administrator of the year.”

“I just want another assistant principal,” Hungria replied.

Earlier, the school district’s chief financial officer, Linda Jones, testified to the overall situation for the district, saying that it has had to cut $53 million and 265 jobs because of state budget cuts in the past three budget years.

“We had 265 less people on our payroll. Those are real people,” Jones said.

The state has cut base aid per pupil from $4,433 in 2009 to $3,780 this year. That cut, $653 a pupil, has cost Wichita about $47 million from 2009 to 2012, Jones testified.

In addition, the state cut about $4.7 million from the district’s state aid for capital building programs, Jones said.

Wichita did get additional money from the state – about $27 million — to fund increased enrollment of poor and non-English-speaking students, she said.

But the district also had to absorb millions of dollars in increased costs including insurance, transportation, utilities, early retirement obligations, Jones testified.

“Have there been any costs for the Wichita school district to educate its kids, that have gone down?” asked Alan Rupe, a lawyer representing the school districts.

“I really can’t think of any,” Jones testified.

Overall, the district’s general annual general fund has dropped from about $339 million to $312 million in the last three budget years, she said.

State officials have argued that when all sources of funds – not just the general fund — are taken into account, schools actually are getting more money than before the recession and the onset of state cuts.

Jones testified that position is misleading because its calculations include state employee pension funds that merely pass through the district, and funds from federal economic stimulus actions that won’t be available in the future.

Arthur Chalmers, a lawyer representing the state, pressed Jones on how much money is returned to the district by principals who underspend their budgets.

Jones initially estimated about $1 million, but later corrected herself and reduced that to about $200,000.

“We redirect all that money,” she said. “Generally it’s redirected to special ed, where there’s the most need.”

Wichita schools chief testifies state funding inadequate to meet demands

TOPEKA — Testifying at the state school finance trial, Wichita Superintendent John Allison said today that the district is not being provided enough money to meet state requirements and community expectations.

“We do not (have adequate resources), not for all of our students,” Allison said. “What you see is some students having success … We’re not able to provide that success for all our students.”

Allison also testified that the state has had the district on “corrective action” for the past eight years, meaning that it’s not reaching state goals on yearly achievement tests.

He also testified that the state standards are growing tougher to meet year by year.

Based on preliminary test results, the district will fall further behind and have “fewer schools that will make adequate yearly progress” for 2012, he said.

A number of school districts, Wichita included, have sued the state. They argue that because of budget cuts enacted during the recession, the Legislature has failed in its constitutional duty to provide adequate support for education.

Allison defined that as “when you’ve got your students meeting the goals and expectations and accountability measures they’re being held accountable for.”

The Legislature slightly increased funding this year, but the plaintiff schools are arguing that the money is too little. And they say it’s probably only temporary, given large projected budget cuts that the Legislature is expected to make to cover revenue losses from the major tax-cut bill also passed in the recently concluded session.

State base funding, the primary operational money for schools, has fallen substantially since 2008.

The state is arguing that the base money is only one piece of the school funding pie and that counting federal money and optional local property tax increases, school spending is actually higher than it was before the Legislature began cutting base aid.

Arthur Chalmers, a Wichita lawyer representing the state, repeatedly pressed Allison over the linkage between higher school funding and better student achievement.

He pointed out that test scores had gone up in 2005-2006, shortly after a court had ruled school funding inadequate and the Legislature raised payments to the schools.

But, Chalmers said, scores also went up in 2010-2011, after cuts in funding.

Allison responded that “children are not widgets” and there can be a time lag between increased funding and school improvement. For example, 2010-2011 increases could be attributable to additional training that teachers received when the funding was up and continued to use when funding went down, he said.

Chalmers implied that Allison’s answers were inconsistent — that he seemed to be claiming there was no time lag between increased funding and performance improvements in some instances, but several years of time lag in others.

Allison replied that he didn’t testify about what was behind the 2005-2006 performance increases, which came three years before he joined the district in 2009.

Chalmers also elicited an admission from Allison that Wichita could raise more money for schools if it raised its local option budget, a property tax that can be used to supplement state funding.

The Wichita district is the largest school district in the state, representing about 10 percent of the statewide school population.

The district also has a large and growing population of poor students, Allison testified.

He testified that more than seven out of 10 qualify for free-or-reduced-price lunches, a traditional measure of poverty for schools, and that three out of 10 students come from households that are in “extreme poverty,” struggling to meet even basic subsistence needs.

Allison said the first efforts to make cuts were “as far away from the classroom as possible,” such as negotiating reductions in software licensing fees.

However, as cuts continued, they had increasing impact on teachers and other staff, which makes up 75 percent of the district’s budget, Allison said.

Teacher cuts were mainly made through attrition, but in supporting departments of the district, “individuals lost jobs, lost paychecks,” Allison said. Central administration was cut 33 to 35 percent, he said.

One of the major programs that suffered deep cuts was summer school, where the district helps students address academic deficiencies that surface during the school year. Despite a $90 fee for those who can afford it, and a sliding scale for the rest, the program isn’t self-supporting and needs general fund money, he said.

In other areas, the district has eliminated driver’s education, fifth-grade orchestra and the Parents as Teachers program. The district also has raised class sizes and made large cutbacks in counselors, learning coaches, family engagement, school resource officers, clerical support and field trips, Allison testified.

All employees have had their pay frozen for the past four years, Allison testified.

As a result, the district has been losing experienced teachers to neighboring districts where the teachers, as new hires, will get credit for their time in the profession and advanced degrees they’ve earned during the pay freeze.

Testimony by Wichita school officials is expected to continue Tuesday. Scheduled on the stand are Chief Financial Officer Linda Jones, Director of Secondary Schools Lori Doyle and Hamilton Middle School Principal Amy Hungria.

Wichita City Council member O’Donnell files to challenge Sen. Jean Schodorf

Note: Wichitopekington will be updating regularly through the morning as races take shape for south-central Kansas political offices

Candidates lined up to file for state office. New court-ordered maps touched off a land-rush scene as politicians scrambled to adjust to new districts

12:15 p.m

The filing period is now officially over.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach banged a gavel at noon, although candidates inside the building were allowed to complete their forms.

Kobach said at least five incumbents and senatorial challenger Gary Mason moved their addresses over the weekend to get into districts where they wanted to run.

Mason moved from Wichita into the Park City area to challenge Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, in the 31st District.

Kobach said that despite the abbreviated filing period since the maps were released at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the number of candidates was about average with 250 running for the House and 100 running for the Senate. Ten are running for the state’s four congressional seats.

11:40 a.m.

Wichita City Councilman Michael O’Donnell is running for Senate.

O’Donnell will challenge Sen. Jean Schodorf in the 25th District.

Schodorf is a moderate; O’Donnell is a conservative, setting up a high-contrast Republican primary.

Perry Schuckman, executive director of the Kansas Nonprofit Chamber of Service, filed today to run as a Democrat.

11:30 a.m.

A familiar Democrat will be seeking a return to the House in the 95th District.

Former Rep. Tom Sawyer has filed to run in the district representing the Delano and Friends University areas.

Sawyer is a longtime representative and former Democratic House leader who resigned to join the state Parole Board.

He was knocked out of that job last year when Gov. Sam Brownback abolished the board and put parole functions under a Department of Corrections committee.

Sawyer said he decided to run again after watching the contentious session this year, where conservative-vs-moderate gridlock caused legislators to fail to redistrict the state and forced a federal court panel to draw new political boundaries.

“I think we need someone in Topeka who can solve problems again,” Sawyer said. “It was pretty frustrating from a distance seeing what was not getting done in Topeka.”

11:15 a.m.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, files for re-election to the House, setting up a potential showdown with Democratic Rep. Nile Dillmore.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, has abandoned her effort to challenge moderate Republican Sen. Jean Schodorf and instead will seek re-election to the House.

Redistricting drew Landwehr out of Schodorf’s 25th District and into Democratic Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau’s heavily Democratic 29th District.

If she survives any potential primary, Landwehr will run against Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita.

The new 92nd District is about 56 percent Dillmore’s former district and 44 percent of Landwehr’s

Landwehr said “it’s a little tough” to retool for the House run after spending the last few months running for Senate.

She had considered swapping homes with her son to get back into the 25th District, but decided “I like where I live.”

But she said she thinks the remapping will be good for Kansas because it’s bringing new people, ideas and philosophies into the process.

10:30 a.m.

Democrats will have to choose between two of their best-known state representatives in the south-central Wichita 86th House District.

Rep. Jim Ward has just filed, setting up a showdown with his fellow Democrat and longtime legislative ally Rep. Judith Loganbill.

Ward said he considered a run for the Senate but “In the end, this was the best fit.”

Although he got drawn into an incumbent-vs-incumbent matchup, Ward said he’s doesn’t begrudge the court judges, who drew the district.

“They did what they had to do,” he said. “And we have to pick up the pieces.”

And he said he’s excited by the interest in running that the new legislative districts has sparked.

Looking over the crowd of registrants, Ward said “You’ve got all these people saying ‘I can make a difference. I can run for public office.’ I think it’s a validation of public office.”

10:05 a.m.

Rep. Dan Kerschen (left) files to run against Sen. Dick Kelsey in the Goddard-area 26th Senate District, while Jamey Blubaugh of Goddard files to run in the 101st House District. Blubaugh's brother Jeff, a Goddard school trustee, filed to run in the west Wichita-based 97th House District.

Republican voters in the Goddard area will have to choose between two familiar faces to fill their Senate seat.

Rep. Dan Kerschen has just filed to challenge incumbent Sen. Dick Kelsey in the 26th Senate District.

Kerschen saw his House district shredded in the court-ordered reapportionment, putting him on a collision course with Rep. Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie.

Kerschen said the new district contained too much of what would have been unfamiliar political ground for him.

“I lost my district,” he said. “The only way I can keep representing the constituents I’ve been representing … is to represent them in the Senate, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

9:18 a.m.

After an initial burst of activity, things are beginning to slow down a bit, although traffic through the filing station remains steady.

Rep. TeriLois Gregory, who lived in Baldwin City for the last election, moved to Ottawa Friday and filed to keep her seat in the 10th District.

Gregory

Gregory was one of the representatives whose redrawn district would have had more than one incumbent running against each other — in her case, she’d have had to face Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora.

The new Ottawa-based district is an open seat and contains part of Gregory’s old district.

“Ottawa’s a great town,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

8:30 a.m. TOPEKA — Dozens of state officials and hopefuls are now lined up at the secretary of state’s office beating the deadline to run for state offices.

The political scramble was touched off by a court decision setting boundaries for House, Senate, state school board and congressional districts.

The new district maps were handed down late Thursday night, moving many incumbents and challengers out of districts where they had already filed and leaving only 1 1/2 days to retool.

A steady line of filers have passed through about 10 stations set up here in the lobby of the secretary of state’s office.

Sen. Jean Schodorf, left, chats with lawyer Scott Hesse, who is running for the state House in Topeka and Jackie Williams of the attorney general's office.

One of the first people through was Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, who had already filed for re-election but refiled today just to avoid any possible confusion.

She said some of the filing process seemed ambiguous as to whether candidates who had already filed had to do it again, and with the current lack of trust endemic to Topeka political culture, she wanted to make absolutely certain her name was on the ballot.

“So I got up at 4 in the morning and left at 5 and had a beautiful drive through the Flint Hills.”

Wichita lawyer plans to seek new District 87 seat in House

By Fred Mann

Wichita attorney and small business owner Mark Kahrs announced Friday that he will run in the Republican primary for the House seat in the new District 87 in east Wichita.

Kahrs said in a written statement that job creation and the economy are the biggest concerns of most Kansans.

“These are difficult times in our state and nation, and we need leaders who know how to get things done,” Kahrs’ statement said. “As a small business owner in Wichita, I know what it takes to create jobs.”

He said his first job in the Legislature would be ”to create a positive economic climate to promote job creation.”

 

Derby Democrat files to run in Senate District 28

By Simina Mistreanu

Keith Humphrey, a businessman and Navy veteran, filed to run for state Senate in District 28 as a Democrat on Friday. Incumbent Republican Mike Petersen of Wichita is seeking re-election in the district. District 28 includes south Wichita, Oaklawn-Sunview and north Derby, according to maps released Thursday by the federal district court in Kansas City. Humphrey, who lives in Derby, is president and CEO of Jet AirWerks, a repair station for commercial jet engines, and Jet AirParts, a distributor for commercial jet engine components. Together, the companies employ 33 people. He served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. Humphrey’s campaign said he filed by nominating petition with the signatures of 430 Democratic voters in the 28th Senate District. He is married and has six children.

Court releases redistricting plans; bad news for two conservative Senate hopefuls

A three-judge federal court panel has redrawn the state’s legislative districts, heading off a possible battle between south-central Kansas incumbent Republican senators, but leaving two Wichita-area Senate challengers out of the districts where they planned to run.

The panel, working out of the federal court in Kansas City, released redistricting plans late Thursday night for the state’s four congressional districts, 125 state House districts, 40 Senate districts and 10 Board of Education Districts.

The judges, forced to act when the Legislature failed to pass new district maps, rejected every map that had been put before them by the House or Senate and a late-filed map that had been passed through the governor’s office.

The Legislature is required to redraw districts every 10 years to account for population shifts revealed in the Census. But a bitter fight between moderate and conservative Republicans this year doomed any map from gaining approval in both houses and the governor’s signature.

The three judges on the panel are Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil and Senior Judge John Lungstrom from the Kansas City federal district court, and Mary Beck Briscoe, chief judge of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In their 206-page opinion, the judges harshly criticized the Legislature’s performance.

“While legislators publicly demurred that they had done the best they could, the impasse resulted from a bitter ideological feud – largely over new Senate districts,” the judges wrote. “The feud primarily pitted GOP moderates against their more conservative GOP colleagues. Failing consensus, the process degenerated into blatant efforts to gerrymander various districts for ideological political advantage and to serve the political ambitions of various legislators.”

The most hotly contested map was for the Senate, where moderates hold a narrow majority and had used that to stave off some initiatives from the more conservative House and governor.

Moderates favored a district map that kept conservative GOP challengers out of the Senate districts of Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita and Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.

The map approved by the judges does that.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, winds up a few blocks outside of Schodorf’s 25th District, which sweeps from north central Wichita through Riverside and into south Wichita.

Gary Mason, a Wichita businessman wanting to challenge McGinn in the 31st Senate District north of Wichita, finds himself about a mile outside its new boundaries.

Two other area Senate conservatives got better news.

The final map approved by the Senate would have set up an incumbent-vs-incumbent matchup between Sens. Ty Masterson, R-Andover and Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, in order to create a new district in rapidly growing Johnson County.

In redistricting parlance, putting two incumbents in the same district is called “collapsing” the district. Case law discourages courts from doing that to avoid the appearance of making political decisions on mapping.

The three-judge panel did decide to give Johnson County a new district but chose to collapse the 21st District along the Nebraska border in northeast Kansas. Politically, it’s a wash because the incumbent senator, Mark Taddiken, R-Clifton, announced that he won’t seek re-election anyway.

On congressional districts, the judges avoided maps that split Topeka or Lawrence, as some of the Legislature’s maps would have done. Both cities are completely within the Second Congressional District.

The judges also drew Manhattan and with it, Kansas State University, into the western-Kansas-based First Congressional District.

Senate leaders had worried aloud that a dispute between House Speaker John Boehner, R- Ohio, and the First District’s representative, Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, could threaten future funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a federal anti-terrorism lab under development adjacent to the university.

Huelskamp’s office has denied that there are any disputes between the speaker and the congressman that would threaten the lab’s funding.

The Wichita-based 4th Congressional District loses Montgomery County and part of Greenwood County in eastern Kansas to the new boundaries. To the west, the district adds all of Stafford, Pratt, Barber, Comanche, Kiowa and Edwards counties, along with a sliver of southern Pawnee County.

District Three covers Kansas City suburbs, including all of Johnson and Wyandotte counties and part of Miami County.

For state House districts, the judges shot down a map called “Cottonwood 1,” which passed the House and Senate but never went to the governor as negotiations over the Senate map broke down.

The judges said they could not approve Cottonwood 1 because the deviation in population from the largest to smallest district was almost 10 percent. While that’s acceptable for maps drawn by legislators, courts are held to a more stringent standard.

For the Board of Education, the judges followed the longstanding procedure of basing the district lines on Senate districts. Four senatorial districts make up one Board of Education District, completing the 10-member state school board.

Poitical implications of the decisions on House and Board of Education Redistricting could not immediately be determined.

The judges wrote that they had tried to set politics aside and craft districts that were close to equal in population, while preserving communities of interest across the state.

“The Court recognizes that because it has tried to restore compact contiguous districts where possible, it is pushing a re-set button; its maps look different from those now in place,” the opinion said. “Some changes may not be popular and some people – perhaps many – will disagree that the Court has struck the appropriate balance. To those in that category – our fellow Kansans – we reiterate that the Court did not tread unreservedly into this political thicket. On short notice, with elections pending on the immediate horizon, we have acted solely to remedy a legislative default.”

Former school principal Carolyn Bridges joins race to replace Rep. Pottorff

Carolyn Bridges has been the principal at the high school where she graduated, helped establish a girls’ school in an Islamic country and fulfilled a longtime dream of working at Walt Disney World.

But now she’s poised to take on what could be her toughest challenge yet – advocating for public education while trying to bring accord to the Statehouse in Topeka.

Bridges has filed as a Democrat to run for the 83rd District seat in the House of Representatives, seeking to replace Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff, R-Wichita, the longest-serving woman in the Legislature who is retiring this year after 27 years in office.

Bridges will face off against another career educator, Rodney Wren, a conservative Republican who works as a teacher and debate coach at the private Wichita Collegiate high school.

Although they are of different parties, Bridges said she sees herself as a natural successor to Pottorff, a politically moderate former Wichita school board member who is leaving Topeka with the lament that the Legislature doesn’t care as much about public education as it used to.

Saying Pottorff was a strong voice for public schools in the Statehouse, Bridges said “We need someone there speaking out with that same voice, I certainly see myself in that same vein.”

“These kids are the ones who are going to be taking care of us in our old age,” said Bridges, 65. “I want them to be educated.”

Bridges said she was dismayed by the contentiousness that marked the recently concluded legislative session, which ended late and without an agreement on redrawing legislative district lines – an issue that will now be decided by a federal court.

“It is unforgivable, frankly,” she said. “It’s all due to basic infighting. That’s not the way the Legislature should be run.”

With moderate and conservative Republicans fighting for control of the legislative process, Bridges acknowledges that bringing civility to the Statehouse is a daunting task. But it could be accomplished if voters elect her and others who want to change the Capitol culture, she said.

Bridges took early retirement 12 years ago after working 32 years in the Wichita school district, 25 as a principal. A graduate of South High, she spent four years as principal of that school.

After her retirement, she spent time in Florida, where she worked as a literacy coach in an inner-city Orlando school.

But she also spent about six months working at Disney World, something she had wanted to do for a long time. She sold souvenirs at the park “and met people from all over the world, even some from Wichita,” she said.

She said she hoped to move into management, but female managers were required “to wear heels and hose in the park,” which she didn’t want to do.

Bridges went overseas with an American company advising the Supreme Education Commission in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, which is bucking tradition in the Islamic world by expanding educational opportunities for young women. Bridges said she worked with a Qataran principal to open a high school for girls.

“I’ve always been kind of an adventurous person,” she said.

In Kansas, Bridges has worked with the education departments at Baker University and Southwestern College.

Bridges will kick off her campaign with a hot-dog lunch at noon Saturday at her home, 5219 E. First St., Wichita. The event is free, but Bridges is asking attendees to bring office supplies for the campaign.

The primary election is Aug. 7 and the general election, Nov. 6.

Democrats Loganbill, Finney, Dillmore and Victors file for re-election

Four Wichita incumbent Democrats — Judith Loganbill, Gail Finney, Nile Dillmore and Ponka-We Victors — have filed to run for re-election to the state House of Representatives, the state Democratic Party announced today.

Loganbill and Dillmore have both served six two-year terms in the Legislature; Finney is a two-term incumbent and Victors is seeking her second term.

Loganbill

Loganbill, a reading resources teacher, represents the 86th District in south-central Wichita.

She serves as ranking minority on the Federal and State Affairs Committee and as a member of the Education and Government Efficiency committees in the House and on the Joint Committee on Kansas Security. In the House, Loganbill is known as a strong voice for Democratic positions on women’s and children’s issues.

“Working families and schoolchildren need a strong advocate in the Kansas Legislature, and I intend to continue my service and advocacy in the 2013 legislative session,” Loganbill said in a statement announcing her candidacy.

John Stevens, the Wichita Pachyderm Club president, has filed to run as a Republican opposing Loganbill. Stevens lost to Loganbill in 2008 and 2010.

Finney, who owns a small marketing company and the 24 Rent To Own furniture store with her husband Jerrold, represents the northeast Wichita-based 84th House District and is an advocate for small business.

Finney

She serves on the Commerce and Economic Development, Energy and Utilities and Vision 2020 committees.

“I have been focused on helping small businesses succeed and prosper,” she said in her campaign announcement. “I want to continue this effort to ensure that the Kansas economy keeps growing.”

Dillmore serves as ranking minority on the Taxation Committee and was leading opponent to Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to relieve business income taxes, which he said was irresponsible and favored the rich over middle-class and poor Kansans.

Dillmore

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, praised Dillmore as “one of the leading proponents in the Kansas Legislature for fair and fiscally responsible tax reform.”

Dillmore, a development specialist with the Mid American Credit Union, also serves on the Energy and Utilities and General Government Budget committees in the House, and on the Joint Committee on Information Technology.

He represents the 92nd District in central Wichita.

Dillmore is being challenged by Republican John Whitmer, a businessman who operates a convention and events company called KanCon. Dillmore has challenged Whitmer’s residency, but Whitmer said he has recently moved into the district and is eligible to run.

In central Wichita’s 103rd District, Victors has yet to face a contested election. The handpicked successor to former Democratic Rep. Delia Garcia, Victors was unopposed in the 2010 election that put her in the House.

Victors

Victors serves on the Federal and State Affairs, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Judiciary committees. The first Native-American woman in the House, she also serves on the Joint State-Tribal Relations Committee.

“It is important to create jobs, provide a quality education for our Kansas kids, and ensure safe neighborhoods in the community,” Victors said. “As the third generation of my family to live in District 103, I have seen firsthand how important these investments are. I want to continue to sit at the table and help make decisions about these issues.”

The primary election is Aug. 7 and the general election, Nov. 6.

Scapa files for re-election to Kansas House

Scapa

Rep. Joseph Scapa has filed to run for re-election in the state 87th House District.

Scapa, a freshman Republican representative from east Wichita, won the seat in 2010 after then-Rep. Raj Goyle, a Democrat, left the seat to run unsuccessfully for Congress.

Scapa, a Realtor, serves on the Financial Institutions, Education, Commerce and Economic Development and Vision 2020 committees in the House.

In a statement announcing his re-election bid, Scapa cited an endorsement from outgoing House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson.

“Our state finds itself at a critical juncture,” Scapa said. “I remain committed to finding the right solutions for the state and to ensure the livelihood of the citizens of my district.”

Scapa is the only candidate so far to file in the district, according to the Sedgwick County Election Commissioner’s office.

The primary election is Aug. 7 and the general election will be Nov. 6.

Grandparents, firefighters celebrate bill signings

Senior citizens, firefighters, the governor and lawmakers took a victory lap in Topeka today on bills expanding grandparents’ rights in custody cases and to extend health benefits for the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty.

“It was just a great day,” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, who had introduced both bills and fought for their passage. “It was a bipartisan camaraderie to get this legislation passed.”

Today’s event was a ceremonial signing of the bills, which had technically been signed into law last month to comply with constitutional deadlines.

The seniors’ bill, Senate Bill 250, requires judges to give grandparents consideration to become caregivers when their grandchildren are removed from their homes for abuse or neglect issues.

Judges can still send the children to state or foster care, but would have to file a written report on why they bypassed the grandparents and share those reasons with the grandparents.

The bill was a high priority for the Silver Haired Legislature, a group of seniors who meet annually at the Capitol to recommend bills to the Legislature.

Several members joined in the ceremony and brought their grandchildren to meet the governor, including the speaker of the Silver Haired Legislature, Wendell Turner of Wichita.

The firefighter bill, Senate Bill 262, extends health benefits for 18 months for the surviving spouses and children of firefighters killed on the job.

Faust-Goudeau said she thought it was the least the state could do.

“These are the people who run into burning buildings to save our lives,” she said.

Participating in the ceremony were about 10 uniformed firefighters and four other lawmakers who had fought for the bill — Sens. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford and Allen Schmidt, D-Hays; and Reps. Clark Shultz, R-McPherson, and Bob Grant, D-Frontenac.

In addition to the ceremonial signing, the governor also signed into law several of the final bills passed by Legislature, which concluded its annual session today.

Among those bills were:

– House Bill 2729, which allows Kansans to purchase an annual pass for state parks when they register their vehicles. The bill originally would have ended a 50-percent discount for seniors and the disabled, but that discount was added back through an amendment.

– House Substitute for Senate Bill 60, which makes it a crime to refuse a test for driving under the influence for motorists who have been convicted or refused a test before. The bill also allows some motorists whose licenses are suspended or revoked to obtain a license to drive small motor scooters.

– Senate Substitute for Substitute for HB 2333 — A bill that makes changes in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to reduce projected future shortfalls.

– Substitute for HB 2382, a five-year extension of the law authorizing Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) Bonds, a financial tool used by local governments to provide subsidies to spur economic development.

– Senate Substitute for HB 2390, which phases out the state’s KAN-ED internet system and requires colleges, schools, libraries and hospitals to transition to commercial broadband providers.