SBR President’s Perspective: The Kansas vision: It’s up to usAndrea Hartzell
During the 2017 Legislative Session, a new majority in the Kansas Legislature passed a tax plan to help Kansas get back on sound financial footing and fund basic responsibilities, including public schools.
Republicans and Democrats joined in a bi-partisan effort to correct effects of earlier tax cuts and tax shifts championed by Gov. Sam Brownback that had drained reserves, hurt services and put the state budget in danger.
In less than a year, many of the legislators who voted for the new investment in public schools and taxes will be challenged in primary elections by people who claim the changes weren’t necessary and the Legislature should have simply cut the budget.
But make no mistake, any effort to balance the budget through cuts alone would have resulted in cuts to public schools. KASB doesn’t endorse candidates in legislative races but we do provide information on school funding. In recent years, Kansas has fallen in its rank of funding per pupil and Kansas teacher salaries have actually decreased since 2010 when adjusted for inflation.
We believe the increased investment in schools will have a positive effect on Kansas students, as will the new school finance formula approved to replace the block grant system, which KASB opposed and the Kansas Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.
In conjunction with these legislative changes, the State Board of Education has embarked on the Kansans Can vision which focuses on the success of each student. This goal will require improvements in early childhood education, individual study plans, social-emotional growth, high school graduation rates and ultimately post-secondary success. This goal is not a “want;” it is a “must” because changes in the economy will require higher-skilled workers.
During the recent KASB state tour, more than 600 education advocates attended our “New Day in Kansas Education” presentation and talked about their hopes and dreams for Kansas public schools. There was overwhelming sentiment our schools are heading in the right direction with the new investment in funding, the Kansans Can vision and the commitment of local school officials.
But we are already seeing some individuals and groups misrepresent what the Legislature did and what the Kansans Can vision is about. It is up to all of us in the education community to explain all these changes within our schools, to our parents and general public. Community support of schools and the legislators who support our schools depends on all of us.