School and legislative update

NEIGHBORS:

The 2018 Legislative session is off and running. Not much action yet, but I will send a few notes on that and the State Board of Education meeting as well.

STATE OF THE STATE

Governor Brownback gave his last state of the state address this week. After many years of shorting education funding, the Governor outlined a proposal to increase school funding by $600 million over five years in order to comply with the Kansas Supreme Court ruling. He specified five goals:

  • Higher average teacher pay than any of the surrounding states
  • Increase the number of school counselors and psychologists by 150 positions each year
  • Have at least 50 schools participating in the Kansans Can school redesign project
  • Offer at least 15 hours of dual-credit coursework to every high school student at no additional cost to parents
  • Provide either the ACT or the WorkKeys Assessment at no additional cost to parents

The Governor’s recommendations reflect the State Board’s current goals, so we were pleased. Republican leadership was not pleased. They don’t believe there is money to make this happen in the long run as the Governor’s budget doesn’t balance in future years.

LISTEN FROM HOME

You don’t have to venture out in the cold to follow the Legislature this year Most of the committee hearings are being live-streamed and some have video. To see what hearings are coming up, visit www.kslegislature.org. If you click on “Calendars”, you will find out what is on the agenda that week and what committees are meeting. Usually, by Thursday you can see what is up the following week. If you click on “Committees”, you can go to any committee and connect if they are meeting.

If you want to listen to the House or Senate as they meet, you can click on Audio/Video on the home page. The House usually meets at 11 am each day and the Senate at 2:30. They are back in session this Tuesday, January 16.

ESSA

Kansas submitted its long-range education plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act to the federal government. This is the plan that outlines our long-range goals and allows Kansas to get federal funding for important programs We submitted the plan in late August and made some changes recommended by the feds. The plan sets out aggressive goals for academic achievement, but leaves lots of flexibility for the State Board of Education to pursue its KansansCan vision around the whole child. We received approval for our plan last week.

SHAWNEE HEIGHTS OPENS TO 4-YEAR OLDS

The Shawnee Heights school board voted to open up all-day classes for 4-year olds starting with the 2018-19 school year. Like most districts, they have provided classes for 4-year olds who were designated “at-risk” for some time. Now, any four-year old may attend. Those on free and reduced-price lunches can attend free. Other students can attend for a fee of $200 per month. Transportation is provided as well. Classes will run from August through June. This was paid for in part from the increased funding provided this year by the state. Great use of at-risk funding!

Quality pre-school pays huge dividends down the road in student success, reduced poverty, reduced incarceration, better quality of life and more. My thanks to area districts like Shawnee Heights, Seaman, and Santa Fe Trail for their leadership in helping all students be kindergarten ready.

ADDRESSING STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH

One area of concern in our schools is the increasing range and number of mental health issues our students are dealing with. If you have been out of school for a while, you might not recognize the student population today. It has changed, because what students deal with in their lives has changed. Students are dealing with more traumatic and adverse events in their lives than ever before.

The result is that 20% of children have an identified need for mental health services, but only one-third of those children get the help they need. Over 70% of children who do get services, get them from their school. The good news this year is that with the increased funding for schools, more counselors and psychologists were hired statewide. We need even more.

The Legislature has tried to deal with these issues in a piecemeal fashion over the years, resulting in separate laws and requirements for suicide, bullying, emergency safety interventions and a number of topics. Last year the State Board asked to be allowed to do its job and address mental health issues on a comprehensive basis. The Legislature agreed.

The State Board of Ed formed the School Mental Health Advisory Council, bringing together key stakeholders to develop a comprehensive framework to develop policies and align resources to better address student mental health needs.

One of the first topics the Council is undertaking is child sexual abuse. I am really pleased the way the Council is making progress to develop training to reduce and prevent instances of child sexual abuse. Our community partners with experience in the field have been invaluable. We believe this model will help us take on future issues as they arise. And they will arise. More to follow!

STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS SHOW US KANSANS CAN!

I had the pleasure to visit with officers from Career and Technical Student Organizations across Kansas this week. What a treat! Organizations like DECA, BPA, FFA, FBLA, HOSA, FCCLA, Skills USA, and Kansas TSA are giving students real-world work and life experiences in high school. These students are going to be great leaders for our state and nation. Together, they have more than 23,000 members statewide.

CTSO students not only learn technical skills, they develop the soft skills and resiliency we know are so important to future success. They contribute to their local communities through service, and compete nationally in their chosen fields. They are entering fields ranging from agriculture, to health care, to marketing, to robotics, to bio-engineering and more. A new CTSO, called Educators Rising, is helping grow our own future teachers. I wish all of you could have met these amazing students. They make us proud!