Issues, Kansas

That exercise isn’t in the official process for how the state hands out “extraordinary need” funds. Districts make such requests when enrollment jumps or property tax revenues are affected by falling property tax assessments.

Still, being efficient with tax funds is a good thing, so this request just forced the schools to comply and send a list. So how often did the GOP leaders use those reported efficiencies on Monday to determine whether a district got more money?

Never once. Gov. Sam Brownback’s battle with educators damages Kansas schools again, The Kansas City Star

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Kansas, Politics

We’ve written many times before on the strange and damaging policy decisions being made regarding education in the state. So, it was no surprise when the following two articles passed by in the course of a day. I’m trying to decide if we just feign surprise over this or prepare yet one more “I told you” rant. First, from KSHB:

According to data released by Kansas State Department of Education, at least 3,720 Kansas teachers have left the state, retired or taken jobs outside of education after this past school year, a huge jump from the 2,150 who did so just a couple of years ago. Over 3,700 teachers in Kansas have retired or left the state during the summer, KSHB

That was yesterday. Then first thing this morning we get this next piece from The Joplin Globe. It has some more viewpoints on the damage to teaching and education that Kansas is seeing. Again, none of this is surprising to anyone with common sense. And the worst part is it’s much easier to damage than it is to repair. It’s not just students today that will suffer, but the ones that enter school a decade from now. Even if we fix issues and correct policy, we now have a stigma that will take much longer to shake thanks to Brownback.

Pittsburg State University College of Education Dean Howard Smith said enrollment in teacher education, which has trended downward in the past few years, supports that.

“Based on informal data, it’s true. I talk to students when they’re coming in and when they’re graduating,” Smith said. “It appears to be due to a lot of variables: shrinking budgets, additional requirements, and they’re reading that stuff. The posts on Facebook — they see that.” Kansas sees shrinking pool of teachers; Missouri shows gains in out-of-state hires, The Joplin Globe

I think one of the most telling things is that at this time of the year, schools still have around 500 open teaching jobs at a time when there’d only be about 100. In an era where we talk so much about how hard it is to find jobs, especially ones in more specialized areas, it’s a scary bellwether when you see a trend like that where we can’t hardly beg teachers to fill the openings.

Here are plenty more articles:

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education
National, Politics

Just Educate

So this topic is a bit broader than just what we’ve gone through here in Kansas, but given our recent history with education, the stuff happening in Texas does have a certain flavor that we know well. What I’m referring to, specifically, is the news that Texas has recently approved the usage of “updated” textbooks. I say “updated,” because of the obvious argument from the detractors that the books are being filled with biased information. And I’ve made no bones about my opinion that we’re already doing plenty to ensure students don’t have the skills necessary for truly powerful higher reasoning.

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lesson-in-humility
Current Events, Kansas

Lessons in Leadership

By this point, most folks have heard the tale of the waitress who refused a tip from the supreme leader governor this past week. She took her final day on the job as on opportunity to spoon feed a bit of criticism to Brownback via a tool she had at her disposal. The media has, of course, ran with this as if she’d flung a pie into his face. She’s been the target of praise, and a pretty fair amount of rebuke. Then something caught my eye.

boss-vs-leader-2For the most part, I didn’t think this issue worth talking about, since the governor brings criticism on himself pretty willfully – until today. And I’m not going to talk about school funding or education or taxes or any of that. No, what I’m going to talk about is leadership. I have very strong views on this subject, because real leadership I think is one of the lacking qualities across the board in our government. I’m reminded of the image to the right in the matter.

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CC by-sa 2.0 Wesley Fryer
Issues, Kansas, Politics

Board to Death

I could really use a hand in having someone explain to me what Topeka’s fascination is with disrupting education. Not improving it, not experimenting on it, but just straight up disruption. It’s like a cook at McDonald’s that’s discovered truffle oil. We bitch and moan about the Federal Government getting overly involved in state and local affairs, but we forget that our state governments are literally just as bad about it. An outhouse by any other name…

No, I’m not talking about punishing teachers for distributing “harmful” material (frankly, I look forward to seeing that one in court). No, turns out they’re already prepared for a whole new kind of asinine. Enter HB2345. The “Only Non-Educators Can School Board” bill. Yet one more jewel in the crown that is Topeka’s creation of solutions in search of problems. Sigh. Continue reading

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Culture

As I keep reading posts around Facebook and the web, there’s an emerging theme that I find greatly troubling. It’s a theme that partly inspired me to start this site. Increasingly, we hear these stories about “anti-vaxxers,” “climate deniers,” creationism, and the general trend of rebuking scientific discourse in this country. In all cases, there’s certainly room for healthy, genuine debate on various issues. But, that’s not what’s happening. The discussions are haphazard, sloppy, and filled with hypocrisy and irony – from both sides. Bias and generalizations take precedent over specifics and data. Individual, fringe, and questionable sources are trusted over broad spectrum research simply because it’s contrary.

I don’t blame the issues themselves, either. I like the thought that we can question virtually anything, and talk about it on the merits and value of the science and research behind it. No, what I see is much more scary in my opinion. What I see, I believe, is the result of us entering the second generation of an education system that is putting so much emphasis on teaching to tests, and is being used as a political battlefield. The result is that far too many people are becoming adults missing not just a fundamental understanding of the scientific method and how research takes place and is tested, evaluated, and agreed upon, but that they are simply not capable of critical thinking and problem solving. When people are saying “if all the scientists agree on it, I don’t trust it,” or “peer review processes are designed to squelch breaks in the consensus” – both sentiments I’ve read multiple times – we have a major problem at a basic level of understanding these processes.

In 66 years, we went from the first plane flight to landing on the moon. In the 46 years since then, we’ve stood almost still in so many ways. Sure, we’ve made many other advances in other areas, but I feel like that’s sort of symbolic of our backslide that will not get better until we address our education problem.

Scientific Literacy

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Issues, Kansas

Interesting to see this coming up in the news again, especially after the legislature took action to correct the matter after the initial ruling.

“Acting on earlier direction from the state Supreme Court, the Shawnee County District Court panel concluded that current funding falls short of what are called the “Rose standards,” a multi-part test for adequacy of school spending outlined in a Kentucky case and adopted by courts across the country.” Court rules school funding is inadequate under Kansas Constitution, The Wichita Eagle

For those unfamiliar, with regard to the constitutional requirements of the state in matters of educational funding, the Kansas constitution states:

The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. Article 6, Section 6, part B

The “educational interests of the state” are then further outlined in KSA 72-1127. It’s a fairly complicated entanglement of principles, made more difficult since the base cost to accomplish those goals has no definite number (what the court calls a “bright line”). But as such, the courts stopped short of actually telling the legislature how much they had to fund, and only declared that the current funding levels clearly cannot satisfy KSA 72-1127.

The real struggle that’s interesting is finding where that balance is between being flat out underfunded, and just being asked to create new efficiencies which tighter budgets. Obviously it’s not a bad thing to evaluate if we’re overpaying for educational outcomes. It’s tough though when there isn’t so much a line in the sand, as you’re just dealing with a zone that encompasses the whole beach.

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