KWU students lobby at the Capitol
On Tuesday, February 7th, four Kansas Wesleyan students took a trip to Topeka to speak to members of the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. During this venture the four students, Trail Spears, Kobee McKorkle, Kaleb Whitehair, and Autumn Zimmerman, as well as trip sponsor Nate Thies, spoke to various legislators about the importance of private colleges and liberal arts education.
The day began with a briefing by Matt Lindsey, the President of the Kansas Independent College Association and Fund. Lindsey explained that, “Lobbying is more than just big businesses paying money into campaigns to sway legislators. Lobbying is about building relationships with people and sharing personal experiences in order to allow legislators to understand the significance of the views of their constituents.”
After the briefing, the students broke off into small groups to meet with Representatives and Senators from their districts. The first member of the House on the KWU students’ agenda was Representative Diana Dierks. Representative Dierks represents the 71st district of Kansas. She is also a representative and advocate for Kansas Wesleyan University. Dierks welcomed questions from KWU students and gladly explained her stance on a variety of issues. For example, students asked Dierks her perspective with regard to the importance of education. Dierks responded saying, “Education is crucial to our system.” She went on to state that, “Anything that you can do to further your education is worth the costs because it will benefit you more in the end.”
The Coyotes then met with Senator Randall Hardy. Hardy lives in Salina and represents the Salina area as well as Kansas Wesleyan University. The studets were treated to an open questioning session with the Senator in which he outlined several important issues regarding the state of the state and the economic boundaries that are preventing Kansas from advancing in education. Hardy outlined the importance of student involvement in the political sphere and the impact that individuals can have when they contact and speak to their representatives.
The Coyotes took a break after their second meeting of the day to take a tour of the States Capitol’s dome. During the tour, the Coyotes ventured up over 200 stairs. Along the way, tour guides outlined facts regarding the Capitol building and the dome. The students learned that there are actually two domes. The interior dome is the smaller of the two and has a ceiling made of stained glass. It utilizes the natural light that is filtered through the outer dome. The Coyotes also learned that there is at least eight stories of space between the inner and outer domes.
After the tour, the four students met with Representative Lonnie Clark. Clark represents Salina but is from the Junction City area. When asked about his thoughts regarding private education, Representative Clark outlined that, “I don’t really have much of a knowledge regarding private education like homeschooling, but I do believe that it can be valuable in some instances.” Clark also outlined with regard to private colleges that, “I think that they are a valuable resource to the community and to the state.”
The Coyotes concluded their visit to the Capitol by visiting Representatives John Wilson and Monica Murnan. During the final visit, the Coyotes asked a flurry of questions regarding healthcare, especially regarding Medicaid expansion in the state. Representative Wilson explained that, “A bill will be heading to the floor of the House at the end of the week regarding healthcare. We recognize that it is an important issue to consitiuents and it is one of the points that I tend to focus on.”
At the end of the day, the Coyotes left the Capitol with a better understanding of the legislative process, more knowledge regarding the perspective of legislators on education and private colleges, and a new respect for the members of Congress.