Members of local boards of education are at the Kansas Association of School Boards annual convention in Wichita this weekend. Along with educational sessions and a vendor show — USD 382's Mark Fincham especially likes to look at and sit in school buses — the association will decide on a platform they will advocate to the Kansas Legislature.
The legislative committee has prepared a lengthy report for consideration by the Delegate Assembly on Sunday. Fincham, who is the USD 382 delegate, said at a special meeting of the Board of Education meeting Thursday morning, "unless it's wildly different from this, I'll support it."
The platform to be presented to the delegates is at kasb.org.
The association supports a statewide per pupil funding increase, as well as an increase in local option budget authority, citing the statutory level appropriated by previous legislatures and the Kansas Supreme Court, recommendations from the State Department of Education, studies of educational costs and funding levels in the highest-achieving states.
The KASB position on tax policy is: "State tax cuts should not reduce school funding when improving education is vital to the economic health and quality of life for the state, communities and individuals. If current tax policies do not provide revenue to meet costs of increased educational funding, state tax policies should be revised."
The association opposes further targeted tax cuts.
It supports a system to ensure all students graduating high school meet a higher standard than currently required for basic academic skills, employability and citizenship skills and preparation for postsecondary employment or education.
At least 40 percent of graduates should be prepared to pursue a 4-year degree and at least 35 percent to go on to a community college, achieve technical credentials or industry certification.
At a July meeting of the USD 382 Board of Education, Superintendent Suzan Patton listed one goal of the district's College and Career Readiness program as decreasing the number of students requiring remediation courses in college.
A report published last month indicated 38 percent of first-time, degree-seeking students at Kansas community colleges in 2010-2011, the last year for which figures are available, enrolled in remedial or developmental classes during their first year of college. At the university level, 17 percent enrolled in the classes. A 2013 legislative change prohibits four-year universities from using state funds to provide remedial courses, arguing that students needing them are better served at community colleges.
KASB supports the Kansas College and Career Readiness standards, known in other states as Common Core and recommends implementation of a testing program aligned with the standards, while also allowing districts to choose among different assessments equally benchmarked against the state standards.
The Kansas Department of Education adopted Common Core in 2010, Patton noted on Thursday, but there is still opposition by the public and by legislators, coming "out of the blue in mid-session last year."
Other items in the KASB platform include:
• support for a program to encourage districts to develop personal finance literacy programs,
• maintaining current and additional incentives for voluntary school district consolidation and promoting a statewide study of ways to encourage school district cooperation and sharing of academic programs, personnel and operations,
• leaving election of school board members in non-partisan April elections, rather than moving them to the fall general election. Early in the 2013 legislative session, Secretary of State Kris Kobach testified before the elections committee, arguing to consolidate all elections in the fall to simplify the election calendar and reduce costs.