In Case You’re Wondering: Funding the Vision
School Finance Bill Needed to Support Kansans Can Vision
High school graduation is only six weeks away. As students are buckling down for their final weeks in high school, state policymakers are working hard to put together a new school finance formula for Kansas public schools.
It’s an interesting convergence of events, but it’s a perfect time to consider how the two fit together. A stable, well-funded school finance system is critical to our success and that can best be measured by how well our graduates do when they transition into the workforce.
The new Kansas State Department of Education vision has charged schools with a huge responsibility: to lead the world in the success of each student. What does that mean? The Kansas State Board of Education defines it this way:
A successful Kansas high school graduate has the academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability skills and civic engagement to be successful in postsecondary education, in the attainment of an industry recognized certification or in the workforce, without the need for remediation.
Kansans do not want to settle for the minimum. A high-quality teacher is the single most important factor in a student’s school career. The journey requires that we attract and retain the best educators in the world and give these educators the tools and resources they need to succeed. We must not only pay our teachers better but also create an education-friendly environment in our state.
These actions alone will go a long way toward the five outcomes of the Kansans Can Vision:
- Kindergarten readiness
- Individual Plan of Study focused on career interest
- High school graduation rates
- Postsecondary completion/attendance
- Social/emotional growth measured locally
Providing students with access to high quality early childhood education will ultimately make a difference in a child’s postsecondary success. The patterns and habits our children establish in early elementary school will translate into success or failure after high school. We are already seeing a correlation in attendance rates in elementary school and high school dropout rates.
As children progress through school, social and emotional development is as important as academic skills. Children and teenagers need to learn how to deal with disappointment, challenging situations and failure. Life is certain to include some failures along the way, and our ability to learn from them and move ahead in a stronger position is critical.
Individual plans of study help students identify those things that are fulfilling. We should not expect a child to decide in eighth grade that he or she wants to be a doctor or police officer, but we can help the child recognize that helping others be healthy or safe brings him or her passion.
As students follow their passions, they will find a path for learning after high school graduation. There are many paths to choose from – certificate programs, associate degrees, traditional four-year degrees, apprenticeships and internships. We want students to fully understand the choices before them, but students and their parents need to start considering the options well before enrolling in high school.
Planning and passion combined can open many doors for a student’s future. It is our job to hire the caring teachers and other adults to lead them throughout their school career and effectively utilize the tools to create the best learning environment possible. This cannot be done on a shoestring budget of just getting by. We owe our children and we owe the future of our state much more.
If we are to lead the world in the success of each student, we have an obligation to allocate the financial resources to support that journey. The Class of 2017 and graduating classes still to come are depending on our policymakers to find a solution that can stand the test of time.