This week’s newsletter is late, and I apologize for that. The reason it is late is because last weekend, I, along with my wife, Heather, and other members of Game On for Kansas Schools, set out from Chatlain Park in District 24 and walked 60 miles to the Capitol, to demand our state fully fund public education. The walk was started three years ago, when my wife walked by herself, and has grown each year. This year 12 brave and thoughtful Kansans completed the journey in its entirety, and approximately 30 others joined us for stretches along the way.
At the starting line.
On Friday when we left, there to see us off were State Representatives Nancy Lusk (my fellow Johnson County Democrat and a former active PTA parent when her three children were enrolled in SMSD) and my across the aisle colleague Stephanie Clayton, who’s oldest is currently enrolled in SMSD, soon to be joined by a younger sibling. State School Board member Janet Waugh also gave some encouraging remarks. Rep. Clayton’s husband Ben joined us for the day on Friday, and we also had with us Aaron Estabrook, a School Board member from USD 383. We had other parents providing logistical support, and walkers from across the state. Here is some press from the first day:
We had another wonderful kickoff event in Eudora, and were honored to have the town join us at their elementary school in the early morning hours with coffee, burritos and muffins. Young children led the walk through Eudora, while a Eudora officer escorted us through the streets. Their fire department came out to cheer us on, and we left with the encouraging words of the Eudora Superintendent Steve Slichel. Thank you Eudora, your Midwestern hospitality is so appreciated.
Children leading us through Eudora!
When we arrived in Lawrence around lunch time, a huge crowd had gathered to greet us and cheer for our public schools. I can only describe it as a once in a lifetime experience. If you click on this embedded link, you should be able to see video of us walking up to the crowd in Lawrence. Once in Lawrence, we heard speeches of support from Representatives Tom Sloan and John Wilson, as well as Lawrence School Board member Vanessa Sanborn.
Outside of Lawrence.
Papa brought the kids to meet us in Lawrence.
The third and final day, Sunday, was the longest and most difficult. But, we were joined by more walkers, including Senator Laura Kelly, and Representative Lusk. We walked through historic Lecompton and headed on to the Capitol.
We arrived tired and sore, but happy to have the sixty miles under our belt.
On Monday, fellow Game On for Kansas School members joined us, as well as other public education advocates. Myself, and Representative Rooker, a friend from the other side of the aisle, fellow SMSD patron (her two children graduated from SME), both spoke a few words, before the Topeka High drumline led our march to the Capitol.
My remarks from Monday:
Before the vote on Senate Bill 7, I received an email from a colleague's constituent. He had emailed his Representative questions about the bill, and he was very concerned by the response he received. He asked me, "Is it appropriate to make noise?" And I answered him, make some noise. Make all the noise you can.
This weekend, I took my own advice. I joined my wife and Game On for Kansas Schools this weekend, as we walked over sixty miles from a park inside our District in Merriam, District 24 to here in front of Topeka High. It was a nice weekend for a walk.
Thank you to my wonderful family, who are here today, they are a wonderful support system.
Thank you to the 12 walkers who started on Friday and made it all the way through Sunday.
Thank you to the 30 or so others who joined us for stretches along the way.
Thank you to those who started us off in District 24 on Friday morning. And to those who spoke words of encouragement, Representatives Nancy Lusk and Stephanie Clayton, and State School Board Member Janet Waugh.
Thank you to those who cheered us on in Eudora. It felt like the whole town showed up.
Thanks to those who celebrated our arrival in Lawrence, including Representative Tom Sloan and Representative John Wilson, and the awesome crowd that was there to greet us and give us high fives.
Thank you to our drivers with their pace cars, and the great people who brought us lunches and snacks, and who shuttled us to our starting points and from our stopping points each night.
Thank you to all the legislators in the crowd and those who still believe in the cornerstone of our democracy, public education.
I want to mention that public education is not a partisan issue. It should be supported by allour legislators, regardless of their party affiliation.
And while some legislators take their marching orders,
So I want to extend a special thank you to Senator Laura Kelly and Representative Nancy Lusk for finishing the journey with us on Sunday.
With all that being said, it is my understanding there is a drum line here to lead our march to the Capitol. Let's march.
We concluded our activities with a press conference in the Capitol, where the walkers spoke about why public education matters to them, and their children. Press and supporters heard from a mother of a daughter with special needs, a 7th grader who walked both Saturday and Sunday, Aaron Estabrook, and many more.
While all their remarks were heartfelt and impactful, I want to share with you the speech mother Lauren Ann Van Wagoneer, who walked the full three days, gave at the press conference. She is an inspiring mom, looking out for the kids of Kansas, and her words matter.
Many have asked what possessed me to lace up my sneakers and walk 60 miles. Well, on June 27, 2013, my life was forever changed when my oldest daughter received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
It did not take long for my husband and I to realize how thin the resources were spread in our small rural school district.
I fear that with recent cuts to educational spending, those too thin resources will be spread even thinner.
I fear for children like my own.
As we walked this weekend, I saw Kansans from all across the state, both in rural and urban areas discussing the challenges facing their schools. The similarities were endless. In the future, the urban and rural areas of Kansas need to pull together to help solve the challenges facing our schools. I want to see the schools of Kansas fully funded. I want a Kansas where parental concerns are not just heard but acted upon. The children of Kansas deserve so much more than they are getting. They are our future, and they deserve it now.
When I began this walk, people would ask me about my career. I would say, “I’m just a mom.” As of last night, I have changed my job title…”I’m a mom who walked 60 miles for Kansas kids.” For those of you who say I am just one person, what can I do? Can I really make a difference? Yes, you can. It just takes one person to begin a movement. You can support your school district, contact your legislators, and educate your neighbor.
The time to act is now. Tomorrow may be too late. Game on!
This weekend was an opportunity to make our voices heard, and I am so proud of my fellow walkers and their efforts.
The Prairie Village Post did an in depth report on the walk, which can be found here: