Let's not forget the fundamentals of education
Superintendent, USD 410
Currently, we face unprecedented financial challenges in our public education system. Lately, most of the dialog seems to revolve around what I refer to as the “Three C’s: Cuts, Collaboration, and Consolidation.”
I have heard comments from our legislators and read editorials in the media that state what schools should be doing to cut costs. Collaboration and consolidation are two of these ideas which I hope to share more about in future writings. Regardless, I have heard little that speaks to the importance of appropriately funding education.
What is appropriate funding of education? Two studies — Augenblick & Myers and the Legislative Post Audit — both commissioned by the legislature, provided a thorough analysis of costs for suitable public education in Kansas. It was these studies that helped form the Supreme Court’s opinion in 2006 to increase state aid to schools.
Unfortunately, the legislature, after agreeing to increase funding to schools so the court would dismiss the case, reneged on their promise and has used the bad economy as their excuse. Yet, our kids’ educational needs do not diminish in a bad economy.
The decrease in funding in USD 410 has resulted in cuts to teaching, supplemental, administrative, and classified positions equaling approximately $225,000. The district also made cuts to athletics and activities, transportation, maintenance, food service, technology, curriculum, and special education equaling another $250,000.
This has resulted in larger class sizes, fewer field trips, delays in facility maintenance, reduced technology and instructional materials, less professional development for staff, and longer bus routes. Some of these reductions actually make the district more efficient and should have been done, regardless. Other cuts will negatively impact our students over the long term.
As the debate in Topeka about school funding picks up, I sincerely hope that our lawmakers consider the “learning” issues as well as “funding” issues. I hope we remember what John Dewey, the long time teacher, educational researcher, and philosopher said, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely.”
Last modified Oct. 22, 2009