July 22, 2014

School board association creates school efficiency committee

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
There’s a new school efficiency task force in Kansas, and this one wasn’t appointed by the Governor.
The Kansas Association of School Boards announced a special committee that will develop recommendations for increasing school efficiency last week. The announcement comes shortly after Gov. Sam Brownback appointed a task force that will also study public school efficiencies.
The stated goal of Browback’s newly-created task force is to get more funding into public school classrooms.
Critics of the group noted there were no school officials among Brownback’s appointees. Instead, the task force is comprised largely of finance professionals. KASB’s Committee on School Efficiency includes school board members from several districts across the state, including Pam Robinson of the Blue Valley School District; a school superintendent and school treasurers.
KASB Executive Director John Heim said his organization recommended a comprehensive plan to improve Kansas education titled ‘First in Education the Kansas Way,’ last August. The plan emphasizes three core principles – raising education standards; providing suitable funding and local leadership and decision-making.
“The plan addresses school district efficiency under local leadership. The Governor’s Task Force gives us the opportunity to provide input to the executive branch,” Heim said. “We encourage our members to share questions, suggestions and recommendations with the new KASB committee, with KASB staff and the Governor’s Task Force.”
According to a press release, the KASB committee will examine what school districts can do at the local level.
“Kansas has a strong tradition of local control of public education, which we believe has fostered our high outcomes for the dollars spent,” Heim said in the release.
According to KASB research, Kansas ranks sixth in the nation on educational outcomes, including high school graduation, college completion, college readiness and basic reading and math skills, yet ranks 27th in current spending per pupil and 25th in total revenue per pupil.
“Districts are already involved in a wide range of cooperative programs and strategies to improve efficiencies,” Heim said. “Over the past decade, through periods of funding increases and state budget cuts, Kansas districts have added thousands of teaching positions and other functions helping teachers and students while reducing administrative and support positions.”
The KASB committee will meet Oct. 19 and Nov. 2 to develop responses and recommendations to the Governor’s Task Force, which next meets on Nov. 9.
Meanwhile, 54 Kansas school districts including Gardner-Edgerton, await a decision in their lawsuit against the state on the constitutionality of current public school funding. A panel of three judges heard arguments in the suit in August. They are expected to rule on the case in November.

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