NEJC legislators, education advocates meet K-12 report with critical eye

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The Kansas legislature’s K-12 Student Success Interim Study Committee didn’t find many allies in northeast Johnson County Monday after it released a report suggesting that the state’s education funding system and key parts of its programming needed to be completely overhauled.

In addition to questioning the efficiency of how state education dollars are spent, the report suggested that the state should have more control over local school finance ballot initiatives and that the categorization of at-risk students needed to be reexamined.

Here’s what NEJC legislators and Kansas Families for Education had to say about the report:

Rep. Barbara Bollier, Dist. 21: “I agree with the suggestion to reform how we identify “at-risk” students. A few years ago I supported a bill brought forward by former Representative Pat Colloton that did just that, but the bill failed in the House. The rest of the report will need some dissection to understand completely. For instance, our current Education Commissioner Randy Watson is suggesting that Kansas move away from pushing most students into a 4-year college. If that is the plan, then why would we test all of our students using a college admissions test? I look forward to studying the recommendations.”

Rep. Stephanie Sawyer Clayton, Dist. 19: “This report calls for Kansas to lower our standards for education, and includes a cowardly call to diminish the funds allocated to our most vulnerable students- students with Special Needs. We owe it to our children to provide them with a world-class education that will allow them to excel in a global business climate, and if the ideas espoused in this report are implemented, it will not only harm our local economy, but will have serious implications for the future livelihood and success of our children. As your Representative, and the mother of two Shawnee Mission students, I stand firm in my commitment to bring our students the best of the best.”

Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Dist. 24: “It is difficult to take seriously any suggestion that we should not take economic adversity into consideration when determining what districts may need additional funds. Providing a helping hand to students participating in the free and reduced lunch program isn’t discriminatory, it’s simply leveling the playing field so kids can compete academically with students who may be blessed with advantages. Further, it’s very telling that the committee recommends outsourcing transportation, maintenance, human services and food services to the private sector. For years, private lobbyists have pushed for such a transfer, without heeding districts who report that they prefer to have employees in house so that they can conduct background checks, set safety standards, and often accomplish the task in a cheaper and more effective manner. Our schools have been operating under funding cuts since the recession, and under a state government that has demanded efficiency for years. It’s time we start looking at what’s best for students, what keeps educators in our state, and what’s effective. Efficiency’s just another word for what more can we cut to cover our lack of income tax revenue.”

Kathy Cook, Kansas Families for Education: “We find it interesting that a legislature that rails against the involvement of the federal government in state matters has no problem encroaching on local communities and their schools where bond issues are concerned. This report indicates a blatant disregard for local control of our school districts. How many millions will they pay another well-connected consultant to examine the costs and benefits of federal funds, only to deliver an answer we all already know?”