Salina USD 305 School board members met with Salina area legislators Saturday morning to discuss education concerns as the new session in Topeka gets underway. Senator Tom Arpke and Representatives JR Claeys, Diana Dierks, and Steven Johnson were all at the event, as was Deena Horst from the Kansas State School Board.
According to USD 305, the district believes that it does not receive adequate funding to meet current needs of students or the demands of state and federal requirements. Kansas public schools must be fully funded; state funding reductions to public schools are not acceptable. The legislature is responsible for making suitable provision for the finance of public education and thereby decreasing the burden on local taxpayers to fund their schools.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Hall began by talking about some success stories from the district. One of the biggest is the graduation rate, which has been a point of emphasis. He said that in 2010 the graduation rate was 79 percent, one of the lowest for a district its size in Kansas. In 2011 the rate went up to 80.6 percent. In 2012 it was up to 81.4 percent, and in 2013 it was up to 87.5 percent, above the state average. Hall said “quality schools are the foundation for a strong economy”.
Hall said that the great unknown this session is what the supreme court decision on school funding will be. He said that no matter what the decision is, he hopes that our legislators will abide by it and not fight it.
The district’s recommendations include:
* Revisit income tax reductions approved during the 2012 legislative session.
* Support the existing school finance formula.
* Perform a comprehensive review of state and local tax policy.
* Fund all day Kindergarten.
* Reinstate capital outlay equalization statewide.
* Mandate sustainability for the existing Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.
* Maintain all existing LOB authority to include re authorization of KSA 72-6433d and equalize at 100 percent. Appropriate dollars
for LOB state aid under the law.
* Maintain the existing bond and interest state aid.
* Continue the multi-year school finance plan.
* Adjust special education funding to fully reimburse district costs.
* Continue to fund the Workforce Investment Act, Title II: Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.
The district also is urging legislators to preserve current educational standards, commonly known as Kansas College and Career Ready Standards. The Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, developed by a consortium of state government and educational leaders, represent a clear set of shared goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills that will help our students succeed. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared for credit bearing entry courses in two or four year college programs or for entry into the workforce. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others decide how the standards are met by developing lesson plans that tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students and maintain a high level of creativity.
Senator Tom Arpke did have a criticism of the district. He said that they need to tell the public the combined total amount of money that is actually being spent on students, instead of the state aid amount that was discussed at the event Saturday. According to Arpke, including local, state, and federal funds in 2013 a total of $16,298 was spent per pupil. Hall countered that the combined number is deceiving, because it includes certain numbers that do not accurately reflect what is spent in Salina. For instance, special education funding numbers are credited solely to USD 305 yet in reality the money is shared between multiple districts.