Ronald Ryckman Sr. represents the 115th district in the Kansas House of Representatives. When discussing the big issues for the coming session, he said that a decision over education funding that has made its way to the Kansas supreme court will be the dominant issue.
“No one really knows how the court is going to rule and no one knows how the government is going to respond to it,” Ryckman said. “But I’ve been in education my whole life. Education is very important.”
The court may repeat a separate ruling from a 2005 case, when it required an increase in school aid to the level that is constitutionally mandated. If this happens, there is the possibility that the legislature may refuse to honor the decision.
The issue hits home for Ryckman, a former teacher and coach, and not only for its immediate implications. As Vice-chair of the transportation committee, Ryckman remains concerned about how the aftermath of the decision could affect the state’s transportation projects.
Ryckman plans to be involved with several highway expansion projects, the most local being the proposed route 50 expansion, which is set to begin in 2014 and end in 2020. The expansion, which would cover a length of 16 miles, would cost approximately $69 million. Other highway expansion projects include those along routes 83 and 54, both set to start this year.
Ryckman mentioned that the legislature has been involved in what he hopes will be a final solution to the oil and gas depletion trust fund issue. In 2013, a budget was passed that lowered the amount given from the fund to Kansas counties. Because of a misunderstanding about when the reduction would take place, Governor Brownback increased payments to counties by $7.5 million in fiscal year 2014.
“It is a big deal and a big deal for that area,” Ryckman said.
Another educational issue residents can expect to be big this year will be the Common Core standards, a state-led initiative to set clear standards for children in grades Kindergarten through 12 in English and math that states adopt voluntarily.
“It would be an issue where there are real strong opinions on both sides,” Ryckman said. “If you get rid of it, what do you replace it with?”