Kansas Education Commissioner Watson briefs KASB on major school issues

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson on Saturday outlined the Kansans Can goal and changes needed in public education during a joint meeting of the KASB Board of Directors and Legislative Committee. 

The Kansans Can vision of leading the world in the success of each student is what Kansans have said they want and what is needed to help students compete in the modern economy, Watson said. 

Watson said a recent report showed most workers earning less than $20 per hour will eventually lose their jobs to automation. This rapidly changing economy requires Kansas students be prepared, he said. 

Part of implementing the Kansans Can vision involves redesigning schools around improving early childhood education, individual plans of study for all students, social-emotional growth, high school graduation rates and post-secondary success.  

A total of 28 school districts have embarked on redesign efforts that will focus on the student, be project-based and include more parent and community involvement. 

Of recent state increases in K-12 funding after years of stagnation, Watson advised school districts to increase teacher pay and reduce class size. “I will not defend you if you are building your cash reserves,” Watson said. Average teacher salaries in Kansas have decreased since 2010 when adjusted for inflation and would have to be increased 8.2 percent to get to the 2010 level. 

During the quarterly board meeting, KASB board members and Legislative Committee members also discussed major issues to focus on in the coming year to help Kansas students succeed. Among the many ideas expressed were stable funding, teacher recruitment and retention and collaboration between school districts and with higher education. 

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