KASB Countdown to Conference: 2010 to Present features more school funding battles, new Kansans Can vision

In the run up to the 100th annual KASB Conference, Friday-Sunday in Wichita, KASB has provided an overview of highlights in Kansas education history. Today’s installment is the final one in the series. 

In recent years, public school education has been dominated by more political fights over funding, while education leaders developed a new vision for Kansas schools. 

KASB has been in the middle of the action and in May of this year, the Kansas House and Senate approved resolutions commending KASB for its 100 years of service to Kansas public education. 

In the Legislature, much of this year was spent dealing with decisions and actions that had been made earlier. 

Because of K-12 funding cuts during the Great Recession, Schools for Fair Funding, a coalition of districts, reopened school finance litigation in 2010, filing the Gannon lawsuit. Also in 2010, Dr. John Heim became the new KASB executive director, following a successful career as a superintendent of schools in several Kansas school districts. He replaced John Koepke, who had retired after 40 years of service to KASB. 

As the Gannon case progressed through the judicial system, Gov. Sam Brownback pushed through large tax cuts that affected funding of schools and other areas of state government. 

With state budget troubles mounting, in 2015, Brownback signed into law a repeal of the state school finance formula, replacing it with so-called block grants that essentially froze the level of school funding for two years. KASB opposed the block grants. Also, in 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law reauthorization of ESEA. 

Meanwhile, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson and the State Board of Education were working on developing a proposal to reform Kansas schools based on input from Kansans across the state, 

In October 2015, the State Board approved the Kansans Can vision that states Kansas will lead the world in the success of each student. The vision focuses on early childhood development, increasing high school graduation rates and post-secondary success and improving the social and emotional health of students.  

This year, the fight over K-12 funding continued. The Kansas Supreme Court declared the block grant finance system unconstitutional. The Legislature approved a new school finance law, but the court said it didn’t satisfy the Kansas Constitution and has given the Legislature until April 30 to propose a remedy. 

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