Improving the quality of education in Kansas is a top priority for both candidates vying to represent District 24.
Vera Locke, 81, is running against Emily Perry, 26, in the upcoming Democratic primary on Aug. 7. The winner will face Republican Christopher Waldschmidt in the general election on Nov. 6.
Locke, a retired high school teacher, says school districts in Kansas need more money and more attention.
The Merriam resident started teaching in the Kansas City, Mo., School District during the height of the civil rights movement. For the next 30 years, she watched with dismay as the school district cut programs and teachers, due to lack of funds. She worries the same thing is happening to the Shawnee Mission School District and many other school districts in Kansas.
“We need to rearrange the (state) budget, so schools receive more money,” said Locke, who has lived in Merriam for almost 40 years. “We need to put more money in the classrooms. Students need more one-on-one attention.”
She would like to see more unification out in western Kansas, such as combining school districts with low populations.
Locke also thinks it would be financially savvy for the state to unify western counties as well.
“Out in areas where there is low population, we don’t need as many counties, and therefore we don’t need to pay for all those county commissioners,” she said. “Many of the counties out west were divided in a way where you could get to each one by horse in one day. Obviously, that’s outdated.”
Her opponent, Perry, is a recent law school graduate who is currently studying for the bar exam. Perry, of Overland Park, said she is running because she thinks Kansas needs leaders who are willing to set aside their differences to work towards solutions for the challenges the state is facing.
One of those challenges is inadequate funding for Kansas school districts, she said.
“The state must restore the cuts our schools have shouldered these past few years,” said Perry, a 2004 graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School. “Additionally, I believe strongly in returning more control to our local school districts so they can provide their students with the resources necessary to succeed.”
She is also disappointed by the direction Gov. Sam Brownback is moving Kansas with his recent tax plan. Perry said not only would the plan drastically cut funding to schools, but it would harm working and middle class families.
Answering a Star questionnaire, Perry said she would not support a phase-out of the Kansas income tax in favor of high sales taxes.
“The tax bill that passed last session is expected to result in large budget deficits in the near future,” Perry said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate to adopt further income tax cuts until the impacts of the 2012 bill are fully understood.”