Key points on education: New resources plus redesigned schools equal student success, supporting a stronger Kansas

KASB is often asked to share key points about education issues. With school board and other local elections this fall and the 2020 Legislative session three months away, here are some ideas to consider for sharing. 

The big question school leaders are going to have to answer is: What are you (school districts) doing with the billion-plus dollars you got from the Legislature? That’s the estimated total increase in base aid, local option budget funding and special education from 2017 to 2023, when the response to the Gannon lawsuit is fully implemented. And, it doesn’t include increased funding for KPERS, bond and interest and capital outlay aid, or other federal and local revenues. 

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. The Gannon funding is really designed to get budgets back to 2009 levels when adjusted for inflation; it is really restoring previous funding, not new dollars. Some districts are not receiving new dollars because their enrollment is declining. 

But one thing isn’t very complicated: the Kansas Supreme Court accepted the evidence that inadequate funding was hurting Kansas students, leaving about one-quarter of students below acceptable standards; and that more money would help those students do better. It’s now up to school districts to show how that money is being used to get better results. 

KASB has proposed one sentence to summarize where we are: 

New resources plus redesigned schools equal student success, supporting a stronger Kansas. 

What does this mean? 

New Resources. Increased funding allows districts to restore cuts, provide more competitive salaries and add people in positions to help students. 

Redesigned schools. Even with more money, doing basically the same things may not help all students succeed. Schools are working to combine academic skills with social-emotional learning, build stronger partnership with families, business and communities, make learning more individualized, and add real world applications.  

Student success. Success will be measured by test scores and much more: graduation rates, college and career preparation, postsecondary participation and success, civic engagement, and your own local measures. 

Stronger Kansas. The higher education level an individual attains, from completing high school to technical training and two-year degrees to bachelor’s and advanced degrees, the more likely they are to be employed, out of poverty, and have higher earnings to support a family. This is increasingly important as Kansas faces a shortage of workers, especially those with higher skills. 

KASB also suggests you can organize your district’s efforts around the following “pathways.” 

Quality Educators. Since 2009, Kansas teacher salaries have fallen behind inflation, salaries in other professions requiring college degrees, and other states. 

What is your district doing to support employees? 

This could include raising salaries and benefits, more professional development or adding instructional time, and incentives to enter teaching. 

Equity in Student Achievement. Low achievement by too many students was the basis of the Gannon school finance case. Lower income and disabled students, English Language Learners, students with physical and mental health issues and other challenges are much less likely to be successful in school and beyond. 

What are you doing to help students who are not where they need to be?  

Steps may include more early childhood programs in your schools or community to help students start school on a more equal basis; adding special education staff; extra assistance in reading and other core areas; adding tutors, before and after school programs, summer school and other opportunities. 

Student Safety and Health. While schools are among the safest places to be, too many students and parents worry about the physical safety of school building, bullying, depression and suicide, or severe trauma outside of the school – all of which interfere with learning.  

What are you doing to make schools safer and students healthier?  

This could include more security for your school buildings or new construction; adding counselors and social workers and partnering with community providers to expand mental health services; what you’re doing to curb vaping and provide help for students addicted to nicotine; and supporting a positive school culture with smaller learning communities and stronger relationships with individual students. 

Preparation for Postsecondary Education and Careers. The Kansas economy needs more employees with technical credentials and college degrees, and most students will need more than a high school diploma to be able to support a secure “middle class” lifestyle. 

What are you doing to increase college and career preparation? 

Steps include more meaningful individual plans of study and increased guidance counseling, increasing career exploration, real-world work experiences and civic engagement in your community, and expanding concurrent college enrollment and technical education pathways? 

Finally, what are you doing to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your schools, school boards and leadership teams to meet the unique needs of your communities?  

Examples are collaboration with other districts, local governments, agencies and private partnerships, strategic planning, and leadership training. 

As always, please contact KASB if you have questions or need assistance in any of these areas. Here are tips on how to share your message: 

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