State Board of Education April update

Friends:

The Legislature returned on May 1. They have a boat load of work to do! Taxes, budget, and school funding will be on center stage. I will be updating you as things happen. In the mean time, I’m reporting tonight on state school board issues. Hope you find this interesting!

 

Meeting with Senator Moran

The State Board met with Senator Jerry Moran last Saturday. It was an amicable and informative meeting. He said the budget was largely set last year and that it would likely not reflect Pres. Trump’s budget proposals. They could either pass a “real” budget (there are about 12 budget bills for different parts of the government) or just kick the can down the road with a continuing resolution. It would be Sen. Moran’s preference to do a real budget.

He felt that most of the education funding would be level or increased. The feds have never fully funded special education (which is a federal mandate), and that is a huge budget item for many school districts. He would like to increase that funding. We told him we didn’t expect increases in all areas but needed to keep the funding we have to move our state Vision forward.

We asked that the Secretary of Education not mess with ESSA (the new education bill that replaced No Child Left Behind) and allow it to work. We also stated our concerns that there were many unfilled positions in the Department of Education and there was “no one home” to talk to about our state plans or to answer questions.

We also asked the Senator where he stood on school vouchers and he said that states should not be mandated to implement vouchers. He said that the President could not on his own authority move money to private school vouchers without Congressional approval, and that was not likely to happen. We were glad to get that perspective!

It was the start of a dialogue we hope to continue.

 

State Board News

The State Board met April 18 & 19.  We had regular business Tuesday and toured the State Schools for the Deaf and Blind on Wednesday. Here are some items from our meeting:

  1. We delayed the signing of a contract for state assessment testing services until this year’s testing is done. To say we are unhappy with our contractor’s performance this year is an understatement. Once again we had delays for a couple of days. We want 100% performance.
  2. We accepted standards for World Language (previously foreign language) and Dance and Creative movement. These are the standards schools will be expected to meet.
  3. We saw the list of the first group of Kansas Career and Technical Education scholars. Students to take career-tech ed courses and meet certain standards are eligible for the award. These students are making smart decisions about their careers, so “thank you” to the districts that made the effort to recognize these students.
  4. We heard an excellent presentation on social media and digital citizenship in education from Kristin Magette with Eudora schools. She is the author of Embracing Social Media: A Practical Guide to Manage Risk and Leverage Opportunity. Social media is such a huge part of students’ lives, it is smart for schools to learn more about how to help students manage this and actually use it in the classroom.
  5. The State Board of Education is the “local” school board for our state schools for the deaf and the blind. Our tour of the schools was awesome. These schools are doing amazing things with kids with single and multiple issues. The sense of community at the School for the Deaf is something to see. They are making sure our students with disabilities are achieving great things and ready for life.

Challenge Awards

I enjoyed visiting the Topeka 501, Seaman, and Lawrence school districts to present Challenge awards to 11 schools. The Challenge Awards recognize what schools with high numbers of at-risk students are doing to close the achievement gap. These schools scored high on state assessments in math and reading, had good graduation rates and attendance rates, among other achievements. Congratulations!