Lessons Learned on the School Playground

Lessons Learned on the School Playground

What kid doesn’t have fond
memories of the playground? But who knew that so many life lessons were being learned while we were outside enjoying
recess? As I sat in the Supreme Court hearing on school finance last week, several old playground lessons came to
mind.

When is tattling not tattling? Nobody likes a tattletale, the incessant whiner who ran to the teacher whenever something
didn’t go his or her way. But when it is a matter of someone getting hurt, always go to the adult in charge. It is a common refrain that we need to stop the endless litigation over school finance in Kansas. School districts are portrayed as whiners who
are never satisfied. The fact is that when kids are getting hurt, the Supreme Court is the adult in charge. Sometimes schools are left with no choice but to appeal to the courts.
The merry-go-round keeps
spinning after you stop pushing.
The state’s attorney argued that since student achievement continued to improve in spite of decreasing operational funds, money must not matter. The education process is like the merry-go-round, it continues to advance student learning for a while even after the appropriate funding stops. But it will not continue to turn forever.
In fact, the “Kansas schools are fifth in the nation” quote that was offered more than once at the hearing is not longer accurate. According to KASB research, Kansas has dropped to 10th in the nation since the trial
started. The merry-go-round has stopped turning and is now going the wrong direction. It will be even tougher to make up the difference needed to turn our system back in a positive direction.
Put me in coach… Another argument made by the defense was that if we just fire all of
the bad principals and teachers, education will improve and it doesn’t cost anything. I remember being picked last for softball at every recess. I possess the eye-hand coordination of a two-month-old puppy. No doubt that when someone struck out or
missed a fly ball, my peers would like to have replaced the errant player, but
when they looked at the bench and saw me sitting there, well, maybe not so
much.
Replacing poor teachers
sounds good on paper, but at a time when there are around 300 unfilled teaching
positions in Kansas, not so much. It
will cost money to improve the profession so that we have a strong bench. Kansas teachers have to be paid based upon
the strong production we get compared with other states, or fewer and fewer
will choose to go into the profession. That
takes a long-term investment in our most important profession.
The teeter-totter reveals that not all kids are the
same.
It will horrify my older (and taller) sister that she once weighed more
than me. That ratio reversed about
fourth grade, but until that time she enjoyed luring me onto the teeter totter
only to strand me at the top and the leap off, causing me to bottom out
quickly. Eventually, I learned to only
get on if she agreed to slide forward on the board. This simple adjustment corrected an
inequitable system.
The state argued for a
similar adjustment to the finance system. They argued that if a third of the kids are not meeting standard, we
could simply offer less to the higher-level kids- scoot them a little towards
the middle. The example offered
questioned whether we really need Advanced Placement courses. Teeter-totter economics are not what Kansans
want from their finance system.
Soon the Supreme Court will
make a decision about the adequacy of the school finance system. Whatever the decision, in poll after poll,
Kansans say they want to provide more resources to their public schools. Kansans want their kids to have a world-class
education. The way to end the lawsuits
is to simply do what the public wants and our children deserve.