Education update

NEIGHBORS:

The State Board of Education met last week, so here is an update on that and other education issues.

TEACHER VACANCY AND SUPPLY

Kansas continues to experience a shortage of teachers, especially in southwest Kansas and the Wichita and Kansas City areas. This year we started school short 90 elementary and 82 special education teachers alone. We have also seen a big drop off in students majoring in education in our universities. So what are we doing about it?

The State Board of Education commissioned a Blue Ribbon Task Force last year to study the issue and make recommendations. The task force came up with more than 60 recommendations of actions that the State Board, State Legislature, and local boards could take. We know that we lose many new teachers, so the State Board asked for more money for mentoring new teachers (which we got) and also designed a mentoring program for schools to use. We are also looking for ways to get people into the profession who did not originally get education degrees, but are interested in teaching. You can see all the paths to teaching at http://www.educatekansas.org  .

One idea that we learned about this week was a program to help school paraprofessionals earn their teaching degree while they continue to work. Wichita State has more than 100 paras in their program. Fort Hays and Washburn University also have para programs. We are also looking at a way to help people who want to teach elementary school to go to graduate school and learn teaching pedagogy while they start their new career.

The bottom line, though, is we have to restore respect for the profession and pay better salaries. In 2015 we were 42nd in the nation in average salary. And after the Legislature took away due process for teachers, there was a huge drop in education majors. We can do better! The good news is that this year, with the increase in funding, teacher salaries were increased by over 4% on average statewide. That’s a start!

FREE TUTORING HELP

The Khan Academy is an online support system for student tutoring. If your student needs extra help, check it out at https://www.khanacademy.org . It’s a free tool for kindergarten to high school and beyond. They teach students worldwide and have a reputation for success. You can sign up as a learner, teacher, or parent. Nearly every subject! If you just enjoy learning, this is for you, too!

SCHOOL FUNDING

The Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) agreed to get started on revising the school finance formula prior to the start of the 2018 session. They appointed an interim committee to that end. Eleven legislators from a broad range of legislative committees will meet three days in December. It will be chaired by area State Representative Blaine Finch. Senator Anthony Hensley is also on that committee. The legislature has to have a revised, constitutional formula to the Kansas Supreme Court in time for comments in April 2018.

The LCC also authorized up to $200,000 for a new school finance study. I’m not sure who could do such a study as quickly as it will be needed, but we will see.

STANDARDS UPDATE

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education approved updated standards for K-12 in math. This week we also adopted updated standards in English Language Arts. These updates will help keep Kansas standards relevant and rigorous, ensuring our graduates will be college or career ready. Coupled with a focus on the whole child and requiring an individual plan of study for every student should show positive results in student success.

This week we also heard from the group getting ready to update our PE and Health standards. They plan to include hands-only CPR in the standards they present to us next year. This revised method is saving more lives, so it might be a good idea. More to follow!