KASB Advocacy Tour: Teacher shortage, state and local funding top issues in Lawrence, Atchison meetingsScott Rothschild
KASB held advocacy tour meetings in Lawrence and Atchison Wednesday, with most of the focus on the shortage of qualified educators and concerns about school funding issues.
KASB advocacy tour meetings continue today in Shawnee Mission and Kansas City, and for the following two weeks. Here is a link to the tour schedule of meetings, which are free and open to the public.
In Atchison, school board members, superintendents and school leaders said the top concern was availability of high quality teachers and administrators, due to a sharp decline in the number of college students entering the profession and competition from schools in different states and other employers who offer better salaries and benefits or less challenging responsibilities.
Several noted that Kansas schools previously attracted new teachers from Missouri, but now draw far less interest. One superintendent said that federal policies on “highly qualified teacher” requirements were overly restrictive and suggested more flexibility in allowing those with strong teaching skills to be allowed to teach more subjects. Teacher pay was raised as the major barrier to improving the supply of educators.
Also discussed was the balance between state and local school funding. Part of KASB’s presentation is that Kansas ranks high in school funding provided by the state (and the percent of state budget allocated to school district aid). At the same time, Kansas ranks below average in total funding per pupil because Kansas schools rely much less on property taxes than other states.
If Kansas wants to boost funding to allow more competitive salaries and improved programs to support students, the question becomes how to raise those funds.
In Lawrence, USD 497 board member and KASB President-elect Shannon Kimball noted that her district has been spending cash balances in response to Legislative concerns about those balances and pointed out those funds are no longer available because cash reserves are “one time” revenues.
Atchison USD 409 board member Dr. John Eplee, also a member of the Kansas Legislature who is unopposed for reelection, urged KASB to help districts with policies on the use of technology and social media. He noted new medical studies on the impact of social media on students.
Strong support was also offered for early childhood programs.