Watson proposes changes to Coalition of Innovative School Districts

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson on Tuesday proposed changes to the Coalition of Innovative School Districts, which prompted a discussion by the State Board of Education on the future of the coalition.

Approved in 2013, the law allows school districts to join the coalition and bypass many state laws and regulations if they propose a plan to improve college and career readiness. Seven districts have joined the coalition.

But with the launch of the State Board of Education’s Kansas school redesign project, which focuses on innovation and changes in school operations, some have questioned the need for a separate Coalition of Innovative School Districts.

On Tuesday, Watson proposed removing the two State Board members as members of the coalition board. Watson said he didn’t want to diminish the importance of the coalition, but with all the work related to the Kansas school redesign project, it was too much of a burden for State Board members to serve on the coalition board, which meets monthly.

State Board member Sally Cauble suggested that perhaps the coalition should be dissolved through legislation. No school district has joined the coalition recently. The coalition includes the McPherson, Concordia, Hugoton, Kansas City, Blue Valley, Marysville and Fredonia districts.

Watson said he would prefer the coalition districts decide for themselves if they want to remain. Under the law, districts that are members of the coalition must apply to renew every five years. Those renewals are starting to come up with McPherson and Concordia facing a Nov. 28 deadline to apply for renewal.

Watson said he will take his proposed changes to the coalition board next week. If that board votes on the recommendations, then the State Board will consider them.

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