Despite the Kansas Constitution's explicit instructions for the state board of education and board of regents to control and supervise all public schools and institutions, legislators attempt to wrangle governance responsibilities away from them. When all lawmakers should do is provide money necessary to fairly and suitably educate Kansas children, the allure of meddling proves too tempting on occasion.
This year legislators have waded in so far the Kansas State Board of Education was compelled to send a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback and state lawmakers reminding them of the board's authority to set state education standards.
One particularly egregious piece of legislation attempted to ban the Common Core standards educators throughout the state and country have been working on for years. Opponents of the standards cited costs of implementation and federal overreach as reasons to justify spending even more money to have the same educators devise something less effective. House Bill 2289 did not make it out of the Education Committee, although the outcome was far from certain as late as last week.
Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, said: "I think the committee finally heard from the people who really know -- the administrators, school specialists and the KSAB."
Boldra, a former teacher who sits on the House Education Committee, said most of the testimony in favor of ditching Common Core was from other states and not really relevant to Kansas.
"I'm very happy with what happened," she said.
We are as well.
We also appreciate the House at least postponing a bill that would have limited the types of issues teachers and school districts could negotiate with contracts. While the attempt to reduce bargaining rights for teachers is only on hold for a year, at least the anti-union forces were not allowed to rush something through that could have had negative consequences for the state's almost 35,000 full-time public teachers.
There is at least one more significant education bill still alive in the Statehouse that needs scuttling: The creation of so-called innovative school districts. Proponents of this legislation claim that rules and regulations stifle creative teaching. As such, a small number of experimental districts would be freed from state laws in order to foster greater achievement.
"The more that we tailor education to unlock the passion of children the more we win," said House Education Committee Chairwoman Kasha Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican.
Sounds good until you realize no additional funding is attached. Legislators pushing this somehow have come to the conclusion that eliminating teacher certification and licensing, attendance policies, and due process for employees will improve creativity. As will not having to be bothered with the Kansas Open Meetings Act, negotiation laws or most anything else the innovative district chooses to ignore.
As one former legislator suggested to us: "It would be better to identify specific state rules that hamper innovation than to just let a few districts opt out of any rules they choose."
Kansas lawmakers need to focus on properly funding all school districts -- and leave the education part to educators. The Kansas Constitution sort of requires it.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry