Hinson says vision for student success needs to be at center of funding debate, amount of money secondary

Superintendent Jim Hinson discussed the recent initiative to revamp the state's school funding system during a luncheon hosted by the Leawood Chamber of Commerce Thursday.
Superintendent Jim Hinson discussed the recent initiative to revamp the state’s school funding system during a luncheon hosted by the Leawood Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Noting that he has not been personally involved in discussions with Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration about ideas for revamping Kansas’s school funding formula, Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson on Thursday said he believed it was crucial for lawmakers and educators to establish a common vision for students before considering the question of how much funding public schools should receive.

At a luncheon hosted by the Leawood Chamber of Commerce at the Ritz Charles, Hinson and his Blue Valley counterpart Todd White touched on the current focus areas for their districts as well as the unstable state of affairs surrounding school funding. Asked by Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn about their involvement in and views on moves to recraft the school funding formula — Gov. Sam Brownback held a press conference soliciting public input on the matter this week — both Johnson County superintendents said they had not been in talks with state officials.

“There have been a few ideas or brainworks of school finance that have been presented at this point. I’m not involved in those discussions and conversations,” Hinson said.

But regardless of what direction lawmakers steer the deliberations about school finance, Hinson said, all parties must work to find common ground on what kind of a school system Kansas children should have access to.

“We have to have a vision and dreams for our kids,” Hinson said. “What are our dreams for our grandkids? That should be the conversation. Not x amount of money…I trust that [if] we have those goals at the center of our conversation about what does school finance look like, the amount of money is secondary. What we want to do for our kids, that’s what we have to define first.”

Hinson also stressed that Kansas’s battles over school funding are not unique. More than 40 states have had recent legislation over their public school funding systems, he noted. He also reiterated his belief that local districts should be given the leeway to tax themselves to raise funds for school programs that provide an education above and beyond the minimum “adequacy” standard mandated by the state constitution.

He also said he believed educators needed to ensure they were creating a system that prepared students for a rapidly changing future.

“We need to make sure that we are not preparing our students for our past. It’s their future. And that future we don’t necessarily understand,” he said. “As we look at a new funding formula, let’s not prepare our kids for our experience in school. Let’s prepare kids for what they need for their future. Because what skills they need for their future might be entirely different than what we needed in our careers.”