KASB Advocacy Tour: Topeka meeting focuses on economic impact of education

The 16th advocacy meeting of the KASB tour was held at the KASB office in Topeka on Tuesday and sparked discussion about the economic impact of education, how the new education cost study was constructed, and encouraging more people to become teachers. 

Tour meetings continue at 5:30 p.m. today in Olathe and 10 a.m. Thursday in Hutchinson. Next week, the tour concludes with meetings in Goddard at 4 p.m. Monday; Haysville at 8 a.m. and El Dorado at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Blue Valley (Johnson County) at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and Russell at 10 a.m. and Salina at 4 p.m. on Thursday. 

In Topeka, school leaders, legislators and candidates for state office discussed how rising education levels in Kansas have boosted income and reduced poverty in the state because Kansans with more years of education earn more. 

Since 1940, the percent of Kansans over 25 completing high school has increased from less than 20 percent to 90 percent, and Kansans with a four-year college degree increased from five percent to 20 percent. As reported by the U.S. Census, these percentages have increased every decade, with more detailed data showing improvement since 1990 in postsecondary completion of less than four-year programs and advanced degree programs as well. 

However, employment projections indicate that even more jobs in the future will require more than school high school completion.  

The education cost study commissioned by legislative leaders and released in March “priced” the cost of reaching even higher education goals: a 95 percent graduation rate, 90 percent of students “on grade level” based on state assessments and 60 percent of students “at college ready” on state assessments. 

Those levels would be higher than any state has achieved for graduation rates or on comparable national tests and explain why the study’s cost projection of $1.7 to $2 billion is so high compared to current Kansas education funding. In fact, as KASB reports notes, the cost study funding levels are similar to what the highest achieving states in the country are spending. 

KASB also reports that school districts are a major economic factor themselves. About five percent of all jobs in the state are in school districts, and districts pay about five percent of total wages in the state. Those numbers are much higher in many rural counties. 

The Topeka meeting also noted the most widespread concern of school leaders in meetings across the state: the shrinking numbers of college graduates entering education and applicants for school district positions. 

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