ROELAND PARK, Kan. – The monetary defiance levied against public schools nationwide has never been more formidable. As state budgets scale back, so does educational resources. In Northeast Johnson County, scholastic issues are taking precedent. No matter how you slice it, inadequate funding typically dissolves into a pesticide for stunning economic growth.
Recently, yours truly caught up with Kansas House Candidate Megan England (District #25) to discuss educational funding, new business and preserving social service programs. England also serves as city councilwoman of Ward #3 in Roeland Park, Kan.
Here’s what she had to say:
On the state office she’s running for: “I’m running for the Kansas House of Representatives for the newly formed District 25 which encompasses most of Northeast Johnson County from State Line Road to Metcalf Avenue to County Line Road to 67th street.”
On issues that are most pressing to residents in her district: “Northeast Johnson County is a desirable community with safe neighborhoods and quality schools all within close proximity to the heart of the Kansas City Metropolitan area. Unfortunately, the quality of our community is being threatened by conservative extremists who are currently governing our state. They refuse to adequately fund Kansas schools including the Shawnee Mission School District. This is vital to attracting and retaining families in our area. Not to mention Gov. Sam Brownback’s massive income tax cuts for the wealthy which will be passed on to the rest of us through increased property and sales tax – limiting the ability of local communities to continue to generate the levels of revenue necessary to provide the services and safety that make our community desirable. The conservatives are also moving forward with privatizing Medicaid which will negatively impact our most vulnerable population in Northeast Johnson County. Taxpayer money should not be spent to fill the pockets of ‘for-profit’ entities at the expense of low-income seniors and the disabled who will ultimately receive less-quality service at a higher cost.”
On the big dilemma involving state funding for public schools and local authority: “The quality of a community is reflective of the quality of its school system – they are intrinsically tied. Kansas schools are currently underfunded. The Kansas Supreme Court agreed and has set funding mandates in place. But the State Legislature has yet to fulfill them. Not only do our kids deserve a quality education, but our property values are directly tied to the quality of schools we offer. If the State of Kansas was fulfilling its constitutional obligation and court ordered mandate to adequately fund schools, we wouldn’t need local authority through the form of increased property taxes. However, if that’s the only way to ensure that our schools are adequately funded, I absolutely believe that local communities should be able to generate as much revenue as possible. It’s financially wrong for the State to continue to restrict the local option budget.”
On the dangers facing social service programs for the frail, elderly and disabled: “Unfortunately, I don’t believe most Kansans are aware of how extremely underfunded some of our social service programs currently are. My 21-year-old cousin, who has cerebral palsy, recently moved back to Kansas from Utah. She and her family were put at the bottom of a 7-year waiting list to be provided with case management services. Not only is this unfeasible, but it’s inhumane. In speaking with other members of the disabled community, I have come to realize that they are shut out of the program reform process and are afraid to speak up in fear that the little amount of aid they receive will be stripped from them. It’s imperative that those needing services along with their families and professional caregivers are welcomed into the decision-making process to help identify strengths and weaknesses of our current programs and bring possible solutions to the table. I also believe we should look at success stories in other states that may serve as a viable model as we strive forward.”
On what Kansas residents can expect if she’s elected to office: “As a young couple looking for a safe neighborhood with quality schools, my husband and I turned to Johnson County and purchased our first home in Roeland Park in 2003. We still live there today. I quickly grew a passion for my community while serving on the Roe Manor Heights Neighborhood Committee before ultimately winning a seat on the City Council in 2007. My municipal accomplishments in Roeland Park include implementing long-term forecasting to the budget process, starting a public art program, creating a new city park, implementing many environmental initiatives and updating our City Hall. Although I am running with the democratic party, I represent a predominantly republican district and was just re-elected last year. I know how to engage my constituency and work with diverse personalities to move the community forward.
“In 2010, I left a 10-year career at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art to focus fully on public service. For the past several years, I have served on many local and county boards while working to preserve and enhance the high quality of life in Johnson County. My years of leadership and record of accomplishments in our community have garnered national recognition – which included my visit to the White House as the Kansas State Director of Young Elected Officials and most recently, I was one of six U.S. young political leaders sent to Japan to represent the United States in strengthening foreign relations.
“Recognizing my effectiveness in championing Johnson County values and my ability to successfully work across party lines, former Rep. Mike Slattery asked me to run for his vacated seat. Because it has become increasingly clear that the quality of life in Kansas (especially in Johnson County) is under attack by Gov. Brownback and the current republican administration, I knew that this was an opportunity to utilize my skills and experiences as an elected official to create an even greater impact in my community. Top priorities include restoring funding to public schools (most notably the Shawnee Mission School District), creating quality jobs for those seeking employment, and ensuring a fair and sensible tax code for all Kansans. I will be an advocate for those who will be negatively impacted by the privatization of Medicaid as well as those who are disabled and in need of expanded care.
“For nearly ten years I have worked diligently to enhance our quality of life in Northeast Johnson County and I have the results to show for it. My years of experience have put me in position to defend our quality of life before lawmakers in Topeka and I hope to serve my community more fully as a member of the Kansas House of Representatives.”
Megan England’s accomplishments:
Roeland Park City Council (2007-Present)
•- Arts Council of Johnson County (Board of Directors)
•- Northeast Johnson County Environmental Sustainability Coalition (Founder)
•- Roesland Elementary Site Council (2011-2012)
•- Mid-America Regional Council First-Tier Suburb Coalition (Roeland Park Representative)
•- Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee
•- Leadership Northeast (2011)
•- Johnson County 2030 Citizens Visioning Committee (appt by Commissioner Ed Peterson)
•- Friends of Johnson County Parks and Recreation (Executive Board)
•- Kansas City Electric Vehicle Plug-In Readiness Task Force (Co-Chair of Government Policy)
•- Roe Manor Heights Neighborhood Committee
•- Young Elected Officials (State Director)
•- American Council of Young
Megan England, a city council member of Ward #3 in Roeland Park, is the Democratic candidate for the Kansas House of Representatives District #25. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Admin Committee, is a member of the Roeland Park Arts Committee, the Parks and Trees Advisory Committee and the Sustainability Committee. To learn more about her, to assist in her campaign or to make a donation, please visit MeganEngland.com.