GIRARD — Education advocates spoke to teachers, administrators, board members and more about new directives and state legislation at Greenbush Education Center Thursday.
Associate Executive Director Mark Tallman and Governmental Relations Specialist Rob Gilligan of the Kansas Association of School Boards presented information about new directives — including a new vision for KASB — and gathered input and feedback from attendees at the meeting. The Greenbush visit was one of the first of 30 to 40 meetings to come statewide.
“We’ve never had more Kansans graduate from high school,” Tallman said. “We’ve never had more Kansans in post-secondary education, but some students still aren’t where they could be, so that’s why we continue to work harder.”
One topic of discussion on bettering education for students was redesigning schools and the way courses are offered — and what courses are offered.
“Do all students need college algebra?” State Board of Education Chairman Jim Porter asked. “Do they all need to read Shakespeare, or do we just keep those things because that’s how we’ve always done it?”
USD 248 Superintendent Blaise Bauer was in attendance, and he said a large hurdle to creating new, innovative programs and redesigning courses at the junior high and high school level is the Kansas Board of Regents. Many in attendance agreed.
The Board of Regents limits what schools are able to do through the requirements for students to progress on to college in the state.
Tallman said this is the kind of feedback needed by KASB to advocate for school districts in Topeka and provide them with tools and resources to best serve their students.
Bauer also pointed out that there is currently a teacher shortage, not just in quantity, but in quality.
“Kansas has one of the lowest pupil to teacher rates,” Tallman said. “And the most successful states are those with low rates, but with a lot of teachers comes spreading of available salary money, which means lower salaries.”
Tallman said upping salaries could help keep the best teachers in the public school system, rather than being recruited to the private sector or other states.
The group also discussed the latest tax bill, and its effect on school finance. The bill allowed for more revenue to be put back into education, which Tallman said will be a benefit in the future.
“The tax increase will allow those on the state and local level to start looking at improving education long term,” he said. “Rather than looking at what can be done each year.”
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.