State Board of Education member Sally Cauble thought it was an April Fool’s joke when Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis asked her to explain the purpose of postcards published by the board to “inform legislators and celebrate public education in Kansas.” Dennis, who is in the Kansas Board of Education’s Division of Fiscal and Administrative Services, also wanted to know what the budget was for these items, and he wanted to make sure they weren’t in violation of the law that prohibits state officers from lobbying in the state. He wasn’t kidding.
Cauble, who represents District 5 of the State Board of Education, shared that story Monday at the Barton County League of Women Voters meeting, held at the Classic Inn restaurant in Great Bend.
“There isn’t a lobbying fact in them,” Cauble said Monday. An example of this year’s postcards: Week 1 had a photo of Dr. Randy Watson, Superintendent of McPherson Unified School District 418, who had been chosen as Kansas’ next Commissioner of Education. There was a brief bio of the new commissioner.
When the postcards were introduced in 2013, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported, “the plan was to send printed cards only to legislators, one per week for the 12 weeks of next year’s legislative session. The cards would be printed by the Kansas State Department of Education and distributed through government processes, resulting in minimal costs. Other recipients would receive the postcards via email.” That’s pretty much how it works now, Cauble said.
Earlier in the meeting, Cauble answered a question about Governor Sam Brownback’s “K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission,” created in 2014 when the Legislature passed a school finance bill with the purpose of studying ways to more effectively spend state dollars to maximize student learning. Meg Wilson, principal of Hoisington High School, was appointed to the commission.
“Efficiency” usually means “cost-cutting,” Cauble noted.
“We have, I perceive, a war on public education in the state of Kansas,” she said. “What is efficient for Great Bend is not necessarily efficient for, say, Otis-Bison,” she added.
“It takes money to run a good public school system,” Cauble said. The state funding formula has passed twice in the Kansas Supreme Court, but “the Legislature do not want to do what the court told them to do.” Cauble said the public is being lied to about the funding system. Schools, as well as social services, are seeing their budgets cut. State income tax cuts are being shifted to local property taxes.
She agreed with Great Bend League of Women Voters President Jari Marietta, who said that Kansas is consistently one of the top 10 states in the nation for quality education.
But, Cauble said, Kansas but ranks 47th in the nation for teacher salaries. “We are being looked at (favorably) nationally, but we can’t get the funding,” she said, adding, “Teachers are doing a good job and need support.”
Cauble did give “kudos to the governor” on his support for career and technical education.
High school students should be assessed their freshman or sophomore year, so that when they graduate they are ready to be successful in postsecondary education without the need for remediation. “We have got to do more career development for our kids growing up, and teach them maturity,” she said.
In 1973, when there were 91 million people working, 72 percent of the jobs required no more education than a high school diploma. In 2020, with an expected workforce of 164 million, only 36 percent of the jobs will fall into that category. The majority of jobs will require some college, although it will often be less than a four-year degree.
Kansas, like 46 other states, has received a waiver from the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind program. The state tests are now assessments, which show where work is needed. But the test is just one of three ways to show growth in the classroom, Cauble said. This means school are no longer forced to teach to the test, as with NCLB. Instead, teaching and learning can be fun again, but educators are still held accountable and must show how their schools are moving forward.
To view Week 12 of the Kansas BOE postcards on the Internet, go to http://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/Board/KCCR_Stronger_Together.jpg.