School officials meet with state legislators
State Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, and State Rep. John Ballou, R-Gardner, heard something Saturday they're probably not accustomed to hearing.
During a meeting with DeSoto school officials and patrons, the two legislators were encouraged to raise taxes.
Many of the approximately 20 people attending the meeting said they wanted the state to spend more money on education and they were willing to pay more taxes to see that happen.
DeSoto High School teacher Karen Wall set the tone for the meeting.
"I think it really hurt when we cut taxes a few years ago," she said. "It certainly affected the balance in the school system. I'm very concerned that future tax cuts would hurt education even further."
Janie Fink of the district's Parents as Teachers program said she spoke for many when she asked O'Connor and Ballou to put more money into the state's public schools.
"I hear comments from people all the time, concerned about what's going to happen," she said. "I would support a tax increase and so would they."
DeSoto Superintendent Marilyn Layman was more specific. She said the district would have several ways to put the extra money to good use, including the development of curriculum and staff mentoring programs. More money was also needed for faculty recruiting and salaries, she said.
"Our teachers are not even getting a cost-of-living increase," Layman said.
Ballou was reluctant to commit his support of a tax increase to fund education. O'Connor was less diplomatic.
"I will tell you right now, I will not support a tax increase," she said.
The senator told the group that a higher tax rate was not what her constituents wanted. Deputy Superintendent Sharon Zoellner responded that she and others in the room were also part of her constituency.
"If you got letters from half of your constituents asking you to do something, would you do it?" Zoellner asked.
O'Connor was quick to respond.
"I've been asked that many times and I proudly say, 'Do I vote according to how my constituents want me to? Absolutely not.'" O'Connor said. "I may have information my constituents don't. If they don't like what I'm doing, I'll be booted out of office."