In our first-ever “Guest Column,” Blue Valley resident and former Kansas state legislator Jan Kessinger shares his perspective on upcoming school board elections:
For Johnson County and everyone who lives here, great public schools are our best asset. Our schools attract people who value education and businesses that value an educated workforce. The critical link between our community and our schools is the local school board – and your involvement and your vote make the difference in what it takes to continue the high standards of educational excellence in Johnson County.
As we look to the current school board races and upcoming election, there is a clear distinction among the candidates. It is critical to elect school board candidates who have the qualifications, experience, and expressed desire to maintain educational excellence in our area's schools and prepare our students for the challenge of 21st-Century opportunities.
My wife and I were raised in Kansas (she graduated from Shawnee Mission South) and lived in Southern California for seven years after college. When work brought us back to the Kansas City area, we chose Johnson County solely because of the schools and education for our children. Thousands of other families have made the same decision over the years.
Our community is consistently rated as an outstanding place to raise a family. Even after our children have graduated, we remain because of the community that is built around the schools in our neighborhoods.
Just as schools bring our communities together, school boards and local governments must work together to build on the legacy of excellence. This calls for visionaries – not dividers - on our school boards and in our local governments. I see outside special-interest groups injecting their ideologies into our Johnson County elections and that is not what built this community.
When I served in the Kansas Legislature from 2017 until January of this year, I voted for school-related legislation with students in mind. Additionally, I also recognized that our public schools - like infrastructure - play a critical role in how successful our communities and state is and will be.
In my current role in the Kansas Department of Commerce, I was immensely proud of the "Area Development's Top 20 States for Doing Business" recognition Kansas recently received. It is the first time our state has earned this prestigious award - and it won't be the last. So long as we vote for leaders who value quality public education and dependable infrastructure, our prospects for growth are unlimited.
When I served in the legislature, I observed that special interest groups aspired to bring Johnson County schools down in quality to the state average, rather than working to lift the performance of schools across the state. We can’t let that happen in the upcoming local elections where partisanship and special interests are active.
With all this in mind, please carefully examine the qualifications of each school board candidate - as well as other local offices up for election here in Johnson County - before Advance Voting begins on Saturday, Oct. 23. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2, but please vote in advance if you can. Vote for our kids, our community, and the future of our state.
Jan Kessinger is a Special Projects Manager at the Kansas Department of Commerce and a former state legislator in the Kansas House of Representatives, District 20, covering areas of Overland Park and Leawood. Jan has been a resident of Johnson County for 37 years.