Schools chiefs air legislative concerns
By JUDY SHERARD
With a number of education bills introduced in the Kansas Legislature this session, superintendents of the three Ellis County school districts -- Linda Kenne, Victoria USD 432; Bob Young, Ellis USD 388; and Will Roth, Hays USD 489 -- and Patrick Lowry, The Hays Daily News publisher, had an informal discussion of issues Monday afternoon.
Kenne suggested the school leaders meet with Lowry because some of the bills introduced would have a significant effect in education.
Topics included state funding and state assessments, including retaining some third-grade students based on test scores.
"If you look at the test scores in Hays and Ellis and Victoria, we know how to teach kids to read in Ellis County," Kenne said. "What we don't have is the money to do it with."
Kenne said preschool provided free of charge, fully funded all-day kindergarten and expanded reading recovery would "reach more kids faster."
Legislative committees also have considered changes in districts' at-risk funding. At-risk funding currently based on the number of students eligible for free lunches could change to students who fail to meet a certain score on a test.
"It's proven to be a successful formula," Kenne said of the free lunch indicator.
Dyslexia programs and common-core standards are under scrutiny by some state legislators.
Common core was developed from a grassroots level, and the standards are pretty tough, Roth said.
Mill levies to increase school districts' activity funds and state funding formulas also came up for discussion.
"When you look at western Kansas, we've all cut somewhere, somehow, some way," Young said.
Kenne said legislators haven't been accessible or responded to comments from concerns from school districts.
Roth said disability and the social services cut impact "our kids on the edge and there's nowhere else but us."
He said some of the cuts eventually could be evident at Westside Alternative School in Hays.
"I just feel like some of our influence in western Kansas is going to be diminished," Kenne said.