KASB Advocacy Tour: School leaders discuss purpose of education, supporting teachers

The second week of the KASB summer advocacy tour concluded Thursday in Shawnee Mission and Kansas City with discussion on common themes: helping more students be successful, attracting more high-quality teachers, and concerns about school funding issues. 

In Kansas City, where a number of educators and district leaders joined board members and Legislators, a major topic was the need to define educational success more broadly than standardized test scores, even if other skills and aptitudes are more difficult to measure. 

“We need to look at the real purpose of education, preparing students to work together, solve problems and adopt to change, and not keep putting students in outdated organizations,” said one participant, suggesting the traditional “factory” model of K-12 schools doesn’t reflect changes in employment and social structures. 

KASB Executive Director John Heim noted that although educational levels have continued to improve, Kansas had one of the nation’s highest increases in suicides reported in a new national study, indicating important issues are not being addressed. 

Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, a member of the Senate Education Committee, noted that many initiatives the Kansas Legislature focused on this year, from mental health services to school safety, are not counted as “dollars to the classroom” under state law. As a result, districts can be criticized for misallocation of funds even though they are addressing concerns of Legislature and local constituents. 

Both the Kansas City and Shawnee Mission meetings also discussed a common concern across the state: the growing shortage of qualified educators. In both places, participants said educators themselves share some responsibility, citing the need to encourage students to consider a career in teaching. 

Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village, a former teacher and Kansas National Education Association president in Shawnee Mission, said the Legislature should restore the teacher due process law repealed in 2014, which he said would give teachers a greater sense of job security when considering employment in Kansas. Shawnee Mission officials noted that their district has adopted due process provisions in the negotiated contract with teachers.  

The Shawnee Mission meeting also raised concerns about the statewide cap on school district bond issues. There is speculation the statewide total of bond requests to submit to voters after State Board of Education approval will exceed this year’s cap under state law. 

KASB advocacy tour meetings for school leaders, state elected official and candidates will continue next week on Monday in Manhattan (10 a.m.) and Concordia (3 p.m.), Tuesday at the KASB office in Topeka (5:30 p.m.), Wednesday in Olathe (5:30 p.m.) and Thursday in Hutchinson (10 a.m.) (Link for details.) 

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