The communities that make up the boundaries of USD 373 have long been committed to providing the best educational experience for students that attend our schools. We are fortunate to have the support of the communities and appreciate that support.
Governor Sam Brownback has asked that patrons, parents, and business owners share their thoughts about what you think needs to be a part of a new school funding formula before November 30, 2016. He plans to share the thoughts of Kansans with the legislature in the upcoming session. As a reminder, the Legislature in 2015 repealed the 1992 school funding formula and replaced the formula with a block grant. The block grant is scheduled to expire in June. Also, the Kansas Supreme Court has heard arguments on the adequacy of school funding and is expected to rule sometime this winter. It is unclear whether or not the Legislature has been working on a school funding formula between 2015 and now, but the time to solve this issue is upon us. So, USD 373 has offered a survey to the communities to gather information from our district patrons, parents, and business owners.
The survey asks for your responses to three questions: Given the Kansas State Board of Education's vision of "Kansas leads the world in the success of each student," what programs, services, or aspects of education might be needed to achieve that vision? What might you want legislators to consider as important as they develop a school finance formula? If you were to prioritize three of your items for the Legislature to consider, what would your three priorities be?
These questions ask respondents to think about the needs for creating a future that does not exist in Kansas today. While Kansas students rank 10th in the nation on some measures, we are not yet leading the world. What improvements would help Kansas’ educators, parents, and students achieve this goal of Kansas leading the world in the success of each student? In USD 373, there is a commitment to providing a balanced educational program for all students including an academic program that embraces fine arts and places a priority on art, music, and physical education. At the same time, there are needs in all programs and academic areas that would improve the quality of the educational experiences for students. Those who are in classrooms on a daily basis can easily identify needs. So, what do you see? What is important for the future of our community? As you talk to friends or family with children in school, what do you hear? How might that inform your thoughts about what is needed or desired moving forward?
The repealed school funding formula was complex and yet it provided for funding school districts based on many factors that impact the costs of educating students today. It is clear that not all students (and public education does educate all children) come to school ready to learn. It is clear that early intervention with preschool and all-day kindergarten makes a difference for students. It is clear that not all students come to school with social and emotional skills necessary for learning. It is clear that some students require additional supports to be successful in school. It is clear that some programs such as machining, welding, and construction cost more to provide than English, social studies, and mathematics. So, what should legislators consider when developing a school funding formula?
The last question on the survey seeks to determine what the most important priorities are for people in our communities. Given a long list of needs, wants, and differences of opinions, what is most important to you? Kansans have long valued education! This mindset has contributed to the success of education nationally and the success of the state. I am biased for public education. I believe strongly that the success of any civilized country is the importance it places on the education of its citizens. I believe that the work that teachers, bus drivers, principals, secretaries, food service personnel, paraeducators and instructional aides, nurses, technicians, custodians, and maintenance personnel do every day contributes to the success of all students and to the economy in general.
The survey is located on our district website (www.usd373.org) and I urge you to complete a survey. If you do not have access to a computer, come by McKinley Administrative Center, 308 E. 1st, Newton, and we will assist you with computer access. If you would like any information about any of the topics included in this article, please contact me.
There is also one additional community meeting scheduled on November 1, 2016, for input into the District Comprehensive Strategic Plan. The completed plan will be presented to the USD 373 Board of Education on November 14 and so this will be the last meeting before the plan goes to the board. I encourage you to participate in the conversation and contribute to the future of education in USD 373!
— Deborah J. Hamm, Ed.D., is superintendent of Newton USD 373. She can be reached at (316) 284.6206 or firstname.lastname@example.org